Sunday, 20 September 2009

Hurley breaks Scarlets hearts

Denis Hurley's dramatic try two minutes from the final whistle broke Scarlets hearts as the home side's brave effort at Parc y Scarlets fell agonisingly short against European giants Munster in a Magners League clash.

In a game which provided plenty of thrills and spills, the home side looked to have done enough when Daniel Evans landed a penalty to put his side 20-15 ahead but Munster showed why they are such a force in the Heineken Cup.

They threw everything at the Scarlets with captain Mick O’Driscoll setting the example. His surges towards the Scarlets try-line set up Munster for one last attack and Hurley evaded tackles from Deacon Manu and Gareth Maule to surge over. Jeremy Manning, who had looked shakey all evening with the boot, landed the conversion to give the Munstermen a last gasp victory.

The Scarlets made all the early running with inside centre Jonathan Davies prominent with his strong running. The home side had two early opportunities to convert pressure into points but Priestland was awry with two shots at goal.

With Munster skipper Mick O’Driscoll already having had his ear chewed by the referee Alain Rolland for persistent team infringements, the official lost patience in the 10th minute as No8 Denis Leamy was given the yellow card.

Two minutes later Priestland finally discovered his kicking boots as he sent the Scarlets 3-0 ahead with a comfortable penalty from close range.

Jeremy Manning struck back with a penalty as Munster slowly made their presence felt. Despite playing second fiddle for the opening quarter of the match, the Irish side showed why they are such a force to be reckoned with when they turned the tables on the Scarlets in the 25th minute.

The Munstermen slowly worked their way towards the Scarlets try-line before a well timed pass gave winger Denis Hurley room to move outside opposite number Sean Lamont to score out wide. Manning landed the sideline conversion to put Munster 10-3 ahead.

Munster then got on the wrong side of the referee again when lock Donnacha Ryan was sent to the sin bin for a challenge on Daniel Evans.

The Scarlets then rolled back the years with a sweeping movement after Munster coughed up the ball.

Simon Easterby set Lamont free with a perfectly timed pass. The big winger surged downfield before off-loading to Davies who carried on the movement. Barry Murphy made a last ditch tackle to halt the burly centre but Easterby was again the right man in the right place as he stooped and collected the ball to provide prop Deacon Manu with a clear run to the line. Priestland landed the conversion to level the scores.

Six minutes into the second half Mark Jones burrowed his way over near the posts to give Priestland an easy conversion to put the Scarlets 17-10 ahead.

Again Munster hit back when the Scarlets didn’t appear to be in any trouble. From their own put in to a scrum 5m from their own line, scrum half Martin Roberts had the ball knocked from his grasp. Opposite number Toby Morland pounced to scramble over even though Roberts looked have knocked the ball out of his hands. Manning inexplicably hit the uprights from in front of the posts to leave the Scarlets 17-15 ahead.

The Scarlets edged further ahead with eight minutes remaining after Evans replaced Priestland as goalkicker and knocked over a penalty. And just when it seemed the Scarlets had done enough, Hurley cut through to send the home side’s hopes crashing.

Scarlets skipper Mark Jones was bitterly disappointed with Munster’s smash and grab raid.

“The boys are gutted as you can imagine. They are a big team and to come so close to victory we’ve only got ourselves to blame. But we have made some huge strides forward tonight. We were far better than what we were last week. We can take a lot from game but we’re bitterly disappointed.”



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