O'Leary injury overshadows Munster victory
April 24, 2009
Munster centre Keith Earls celebrated his Lions call-up with a try against the Scarlets at Thomond Park
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Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary has given the British and Irish Lions a major injury scare ahead of their South Africa tour.
O'Leary was carried off on a stretcher in the first half of the Magners League leaders' 29-10 victory over the Scarlets in Cork. He was taken to hospital amid initial speculation that he had suffered a serious leg injury.
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan named a 37-man squad just three days ago but there must already be serious doubt about O'Leary's participation. If he was to be ruled out of the 10-match tour, which starts in Rustenburg on May 30, the likes of Dwayne Peel, Danny Care and Scotland captain Mike Blair will be in contention to replace him.
Early indications were that O'Leary had suffered a suspected fractured ankle. He was immediately ruled out of next weekend's Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Leinster and will almost certainly miss the trip to South Africa. An unfortunate collision between David Wallace and O'Leary saw the scrum-half go over on his left ankle and he had to be taken off on a stretcher.
Tries from Ian Dowling, David Wallace, Keith Earls and Denis Leamy helped Munster move onto 58 points, meaning the title will be theirs if Ospreys fail to gain a point against Edinburgh tomorrow.
The reigning European champions had seven of their eight Lions in action, with tour captain Paul O'Connell the only absentee as he rested a sore hip. Lions duo Matthew Rees and Stephen Jones filled places on the Scarlets bench, with Nigel Davies giving a number of the region's young talents a run-out.
The Scarlets bossed possession from the off but Rhys Priestland flashed a third-minute penalty wide of the target. Munster roared back and from their first real attack, Earls and Doug Howlett rampaged up the right, Lifeimi Mafi then sucked in three defenders before O'Leary scooped a long pass out to the left for Dowling to score on the overlap.
O'Gara converted but just two minutes later an unfortunate collision between Wallace and O'Leary saw the scrum-half go over on his left ankle and he had to be taken off on a stretcher. Priestland landed a subsequent penalty but a retreating scrum was really hampering the Scarlets.
Both Daniel Evans and Priestland kicked well for position but good cameos from Alan Quinlan and Dowling adding urgency to Munster's play and Earls was held up over the line shortly afterwards as Jon Davies came in with a timely intervention.
After a series of creaking Scarlets scrums, Lee Williams put in a crucial hit on Paul Warwick but that defensive work wore down the visitors and Wallace spun past an initial tackle and powered his way over for a 33rd-minute try.
O'Gara's conversion left some daylight between the sides at 17-3 at half-time, although Earls was the unlucky player to receive time in the sin-bin after a series of ruck infringements from both sides.
The Scarlets brought on Rees, Jones and Phil John for the second half and grabbed a try when Williams cantered into space on the right and linked with the supporting Evans before busy scrum-half Roberts took the scoring pass.
Roberts' fifth league try was converted by Jones for 17-10 but five minutes later Roberts received a yellow card for a professional foul as Peter Stringer tried to put Munster through on an overlap.
Tony McGahan's men took their cue. Upping the pace with Jerry Flannery and Leamy both prominent, Mafi put Earls through for a simple try, converted by O'Gara, and then Leamy pounced off the back of a steamrollering scrum to chalk up the bonus point.
Munster: P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, I Dowling; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll (capt), A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy.
Replacements: D Fogarty for Flannery (63), T Buckley for Hayes (64), D Ryan for Quinlan (69), N Ronan for Wallace (62), P Stringer for O'Leary (10), B Murphy or Howlett (71), D Hurley for Warwick (48).
Scarlets: Daniel Evans; Mark Jones (capt), Rob Higgitt, Jon Davies, Lee Williams; Rhys Priestland, Martin Roberts; Iestyn Thomas, Mahonri Schwalger, Scott Roberts, Vernon Cooper, Dominic Day, Josh Turnbull, Rob McCusker, David Lyons.
Replacements: Phil John for S. Roberts (41), Matthew Rees for Schwalger (41), Aaron Shingler for McCusker (75), Johnathon Edwards for Turnbull (63), Gavin Cattle for Higgitt (76), Stephen Jones for Priestland (41), Ceiron Thomas for M. Jones (63).
Referee: Neil Paterson (SRFU).