Six-try Scarlets cruise to PRO12 title

Six-try Scarlets swept Munster’s meek challenge aside to win a one-sided Guinness PRO12 final 46-22 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Wayne Pivac’s men captured the Welsh region’s second PRO12 title — and first since 2004 — as their devastatingly potent attack floored an Irish province for the second week running.

Impressive semifinal winners at Leinster, Scarlets sauntered into a 29-3 lead with four tries in the opening half an hour.

Coping much better with the greasy ball, Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Gareth Davies and Tadhg Beirne all touched down, with Rhys Patchell kicking nine points.

A converted 39th-minute score from Tyler Bleyendaal, adding to his early penalty, cut the deficit to 19 points for a rather shell-shocked Munster, who were wearing their changed navy strip.

Patchell responded with a 44th-minute penalty before a late flurry of scores, tries from Andrew Conway and Keith Earls being scant consolation for Munster as replacement DTH van der Merwe and James Davies took Scarlets’ haul to six in the end.

With too many of their leading players off-form, Munster were unable to lift the trophy in Anthony Foley’s memory as the hungrier and superior Scarlets condemned the province to their second PRO12 final defeat in three years.

The Scarlets backs, so effective with ball in hand against Leinster, were first to create an opening, fly-half Patchell teeing off a move that saw Johnny McNicholl threaten from halfway.

A scrum penalty against Samson Lee allowed Bleyendaal to boot Munster into a sixth-minute lead, but from a subsequent penalty advantage for Scarlets, winger Williams beat Earls to Patchell’s brilliant cross-field kick for a momentum-building try.

The try’s creator was unable to convert from the right touchline, and Munster had a real let-off when an error-prone Francis Saili went unpunished for a deliberate knock-on as McNicholl tried to exploit an overlap.

Patchell kicked Scarlets into a deserved 8-3 lead and it got worse for Munster from the restart as a fumbled ruck ball saw the Welshmen counter for a superb 19th-minute try. Quick passing out to the left, with Saili shooting up aimlessly, saw Jonathan Davies and Evans combine from deep for the latter’s 13th try of the campaign.

Patchell converted and Munster were really rocking, the same space opening up on Conway’s wing for the Llanelli outfit to flood forward, with only a knock-on from Gareth Davies preventing another long range try.

The Wales scrum-half had the score he desired just a few minutes later, centre Scott Williams taking advantage of a missed tackle to send Gareth Davies over for a seven-pointer.

Former Leinster lock Beirne twisted out of tackles from Dave Kilcoyne and CJ Stander to crash over for try number four, before a late Munster rally saw Conor Murray release his half-back partner to go over close to the posts.

Patchell kept Scarlets on course with a well-struck penalty early on the resumption, while Munster continued to be frustrated by their own ineffectiveness and their opponents’ mostly water-tight defence.

Even when mistake-ridden Munster got up close to the try-line, their day was summed up when they had a penalty reversed for captain Peter O’Mahony’s illegal entry at a ruck.

Excellent hands from centres Jonathan Davies and Williams sent Van der Merwe cutting in past two defenders and he duly fended off Jack O’Donoghue for a classy 69th-minute try, converted by Williams.

Conway profited from Rhys Marshall’s break to run in a belated first try for Munster. A second quickly followed following an Earls intercept, but Scarlets deservedly had the final say thanks to flanker James Davies.