Scarlets 27 Munster 30
YOUNG Munster out-half Ben Healy truly announced himself as a senior player on Saturday with a wonderful penalty from inside in his own half, with the last kick of the game, to give Munster an unlikely win over Scarlets in the Pro14 season opener.
Munster were 10 points down, and a man down, with 10 minutes to go but fought back to take a famous away victory from Parc y Scarlets.
The Scarlets opened the scoring in the 17th minute from a penalty from the trusty boot of Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny, and he repeated the trick in the 21st minute to give his side an early six-point buffer.
Peter O’Mahony was sin-binned in the 22nd minute and four minutes later Halfpenny added another penalty after Jack O’Donoghue was deemed to have illegally collapsed a maul. Clearly, the Munster indiscipline was an issue at this juncture.
However, Munster scored a brilliant try in the 29th minute, when down to 14, which came from broken play. The Scarlets had hacked upfield, and when Mike Haley collected and offloaded to Andrew Conway suddenly the home side were in trouble down the blindside, as the Irish winger ran into space and fed Damien de Allende, who was able to feed the supporting openside Jack O’Donoghue to saunter over the line.
Hanrahan was able to add the extras and Munster were right back in the game, although another Halfpenny penalty in the 36th minute pushed the lead back out to 12-7 at the break.
Scarlets scored first in the second half, with another Halfpenny three-pointer, and while Hanrahan cancelled it out with one of his own, Halfpenny struck again in the 51st and 56th minutes, as Munster’s appalling indiscipline kept getting punished.
A 69th minute try from Munster gave them hope, when Craig Casey sent a bullet of a pass to Chris Farrell and the big centre crashed through a few tackles to dot down. However, Peter O’Mahony was sent off for dropping a shoulder into a prone Jake Ball in the aftermath, and when Halfpenny slotted the resultant penalty that was awarded on halfway Munster were two scores behind again.
Healy slotted an excellent 73rd-minute penalty, to get them back within range and when Munster won a penalty soon after they kicked for the corner, and with the likes of Farrell and De Allende adding their sizeable frames to the maul the replacement hooker Kevin O’Byrne was able to crash over.
Healy added the extras to level, but that was only the dress rehearsal, as when Munster won a penalty just short of halfway the Tipperary youngster withstood the pressure to steal victory with his last-gasp effort.
Scorers for Scarlets: Halfpenny 9 pens.
Munster: Healy 2 pens, 2 cons, Hanrahan 1 pen, 1 con, O’Donoghue, Farrell and O’Byrne, 1 try each.
SCARLETS: Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Rogers, Jonathan Davies, Steff Hughes, Steff Evans, Dan Jones, Gareth Davies, Sione Kalamafoni, Josh Macleod, Blade Thomson, Sam Lousi, Jake Ball, Werner Kruger, Ken Owens (c), Wyn Jones.
Subs: Javan Sebastian for Kruger (56), Lewis Rawlins and Kieran Hardy for Lousi and Davies (63) James Davies and Rhys Patchell for Macleod and Jones (66), Ryan Elias for Jones (69).
MUNSTER: Mike Haley, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Darren Sweetnam, JJ Hanrahan, Craig Casey, CJ Stander, Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony (c), Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn, John Ryan, Rhys Marshall, James Cronin.
Subs: Fineen Wycherley for Kleyn (55), Ben Healy and Kevin O’Byrne for Hanrahan and Marshall (56), Gavin Coombes, Stephen Archer and Rory Scannell for O’Donoghue, Ryan and Sweetnam (63), Jeremy Loughman for Cronin (64), Neil Cronin for Casey (76).
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Wales)