Second-half tries from Sam Tuitupou and Barry Murphy proved crucial for Munster as they edged past the Scarlets 27-26.
Second-half tries from Sam Tuitupou and Barry Murphy proved crucial for Munster as they edged past the Scarlets 27-26 on Sunday.
Inspirational captain Johnathan Edwards helped himself to a brace of tries and Rhys Priestland kicked six of his eight shots at goal to give the Scarlets a chance of winning the top-of-the-table clash.
But quickfire scores from Tuitupou and Murphy, which were supplemented by Paul Warwick's 17-point haul, guided Munster to a narrow win and a seven-point lead at the summit of the Magners League.
The Scarlets dictated the early exchanges, but Priestland missed two penalty attempts and his half-back partner Martin Roberts was sin-binned for taking out Denis Hurley as the Munster winger chased a garryowen.
Warwick missed the target with the resulting penalty, leaving Priestland to open the scoring with a 40-metre effort in the 17th minute.
Warwick replied with two penalty successes, the second coming after a powerful burst from flanker Peter O'Mahony.
O'Mahony then infringed at a lineout, allowing Priestland to kick the Scarlets level, but the game's first try quickly followed as Warwick nipped in under the posts after a James Coughlan-inspired attack.
The Scarlets hit back on the stroke of half-time as Priestland made the midfield incision and Edwards was on his shoulder to take the pass and score, with the extras added for a 13-13 interval scoreline.
Priestland knocked over a galvanising penalty as the second half got under way, following O'Mahony's sin-binning for a maul infringement.
Back came Munster though, putting together two slick phases that resulted in tries. Doug Howlett sent Tuitupou powering through tackles from Iestyn Thomas and Ken Owens and the former All Black centre had the pace to make the line from 25 metres out.
Warwick converted and, three minutes later, it was his short pass that invited centre Murphy to burst clear and leave the Scarlets defence flatfooted on an angled run to the posts.
The simple conversion gave Munster a 27-16 lead and a sniff of a bonus point. The required try never came and the Scarlets hit back with a 10-point burst.
On 58 minutes, Edwards gathered a ruck delivery from Roberts at pace and wrestled free from Niall Ronan and O'Mahony to dive in under the posts.
The extras came from Priestland, who rewarded his forwards in the 65th minute with another penalty.
The Scarlets struggled for territory but still came closest to scoring late on. Winger Morgan Stoddart was denied a try by Hurley's vital tackle four minutes from the finish as Munster held on.
Try: Warwick, Tuitupou, Murphy
Cons: Warwick 3
Pens: Warwick 2
For the Scarlets:
Tries: Edwards 2
Cons: Priestland 2
Pens: Priestland 4
Yellow cards: Martin Roberts (Scarlets, 14 mins), Peter O'Mahony (Munster, 45 mins)
Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Barry Murphy, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Alan Quinlan, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Billy Holland, 3 Peter Borlase, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Ryan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 C Murray, 22 Tom Gleeson, 23 Scott Deasy.
Scarlets: 15 Daniel Evans, 14 Morgan Stoddart, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Regan King, 11 Lee Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Johnathan Edwards (capt), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Peter Edwards, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Iestyn Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Phil John, 18 Simon Gardner, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Jonny Fa'amatuainu, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Dan Newton, 23 Scott Williams.
Referee: James Jones