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Scarlets’ stunning comeback not enough to beat Munster

SCARLETS produced a stirring second-half comeback to claim two bonus points in a pulsating United Rugby Championship clash with Munster at Musgrave Park.

The West Walians looked dead and buried when they trailed 35-7 at half-time, but they turned the match on its head in the second period with a capacity crowd relieved to hear the final whistle after Scarlets had pulled to within seven points at 49-42.

Scarlets produced some dazzling rugby to cross for six tries in all with Vaea Fifita, Sione Kalamafoni, Sam Lousi, Gareth Davies and Tom Rogers adding to Joe Roberts’s first-half score.

Johnny Williams also produced a big performance off the bench after replacing the injured Johnny McNicholl in the first half.

The Scarlets, though, will lament defensive lapses in the first half that ultimately cost them dear.

Coming into the match on the back of six straight wins, Scarlets’ momentum was rocked in the opening exchanges. With just two minutes on the clock, slick off-loading allowed full-back Patrick Campbell to race away down the touchline for a try converted by Joey Carbery. Wing Calvin Nash added another before fellow speedster Shane Daly was freed out wide for the third.

Scarlets lost McNicholl to a knee injury and he was replaced by Williams, who announced his return from a five-month absence with a thumping hit on All Black Malakai Fekitoa.

But the home side continued to dominate and on 27 minutes scrum-half Paddy Paterson gathered his own drop pass to skip away for the bonus score.

Scarlets finally fired a shot when a strong run from Williams set up play in the Munster 22 and a miss pass from Sam Costelow put Fifita away, with the Tongan drawing the final defender to send centre Roberts over for the score. Costelow nailed the touchline conversion.

However, the Irish province had the final word of a one-sided half when Daly sliced through for his second try of the night to make it 35-7 at the break.

Scarlets needed a bright start to the second half and they got that on 45 minutes when Fifita collected an inside pass from Sione Kalamafoni to race 40 metres unopposed to the whitewash. Costelow again added the extras.

But after Scarlets failed to exit from the restart, Munster struck again through a trademark close-range effort from No. 8 Gavin Coombes.

The see-sawing nature of the contest continued when Kalamafoni pounced on a rare Munster error for Scarlets’ third try on 54 minutes and Scarlets had their bonus-point score when Lousi stretched out to touch down soon after.

Munster struck again when Nash crossed for his second and Munster’s seventh with quarter of an hour remaining, but Scarlets weren’t finished.

On 70 minutes, Dan Davis, making his 50th appearance, burst through to feed replacement Gareth Davies for Scarlets’ fifth try of the contest, then wing Tom Rogers found a gap to claim number six with three minutes remaining.

The crowd were desperate for the game to end and they got their wish when a pass went to ground from a Scarlets attack from deep to end an incredible free-running match that contained 13 converted tries.