Munster’s turbulent season ended in disappointment after a chastening Guinness PRO12 final defeat by Scarlets in Dublin.
The province, whose head coach Anthony Foley died of a heart attack in October, were left stunned as the visitors ran in four tries in the opening 31 minutes.
Tries from Tyler Bleyendaal, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls all came too late to even serve as consolation for a Munster side that topped the regular season table with a record points haul.
Scarlets added two tries in the second half as they posted a record winning margin for a final and joined last season's winners Connacht as surprise but worthy winners.
The Welsh side had shocked Leinster last weekend – becoming the only team to win an away semi-final – and duly did the double over the pre-game favourites in emphatic fashion in front of 44,558 fans, another record for a PRO12 decider.
Munster looked all at sea and, in Donnacha Ryan’s final game for the province, offered nothing in response to an irresistible Scarlets’ showing.
A Champions Cup semi-final and a PRO12 final appearance will read as an improvement on last season for Munster but the manner of both defeats leaves a lot of questions to be answered by boss Johan Erasmus.
For the Scarlets, who lost their first three games of the season, it was a second PRO12 victory, as they added to their 2004 win in sensational style.
The Welsh side had won in Thomond Park during the regular season – a defeat Erasmus had taken the blame for with a misjudged half-time talk when they held a handsome lead – and the belief that victory had brought was evident in every facet of Scarlets’ play.
It had bucketed rain all day in Dublin but about an hour before kick-off the clouds moved on and the free-running Welsh side had the dry conditions they craved.
Both sides began according to script with Munster kicking and Scarlets running the ball. That expansive approach cost the visitors early on as they conceded a series of penalties resulting in Bleyendaal knocking over the first three points of the evening.
But Munster suffered an early blow as Rory Scannell was lost to a head injury with Jaco Taute replacing the centre.
The Scarlets responded immediately with Liam Williams timing his run perfectly to pick up Patchell’s pinpoint cross-field kick to dot down in the corner.The out-half couldn’t convert but the pre-match theory that the game would be tight and low-scoring went up in smoke.
Scarlets then began to mix up their game with the half-backs kicking at the right times to keep Munster on their toes.
And when Munster went off their feet at a ruck, Patchell, who was pipped for man of the match by Aaron Shingler, extended the lead to 8-3.
Munster can’t say they weren’t forewarned about the Welsh side’s attacking threat and when Steff Evans, sent off last week with the card later rescinded, and Jonathan Davies combined on the left wing, the three-time winners were exposed badly, this time Patchell landing the extras.
It was almost a carbon copy of his try against Leinster last week, and seconds later an identical breakaway ended in a knock-on decision with the try line beckoning.
Munster were hanging on for dear life and had another lucky break when a sloppy long pass evaded Evans on the wing.
That reprieve didn’t last long, however, as Scott Williams walked through the line and found Gareth Davies who was afforded a clear run in to make it 22-3.
Munster were crumbling and Wayne Pivac’s men appeared to be scoring at will. Former Leinster man Tadhg Beirne bulldozed over off the side of a maul to grab their fourth of the day after just 31 minutes.
Erasmus' side couldn’t catch a break: even when Saili gathered Zebo’s lob in space on the halfway mark a knock on followed.
Eventually Bleyendaal dived over under the posts after a good Munster scrum in the final play of the half.
The crowd roared, desperate to exercise their voices after the most chastening 40 minutes in recent memory.
Patchell knocked over another penalty just five minutes into the second half and within that time Munster twice lost possession through basic errors, symptomatic of their day in general.
Indeed, Munster’s efforts looked half-hearted from there on in with the Llanelli-based side continuing to dominate the exchanges at the breakdown and winning the kicking battles.
The Red Army began their long journey south with 10 minutes to play – the final straw the sight of replacement DTH van der Merwe touching down under the posts after some frankly pathetic defending on Munster’s right flank.
They missed late retorts from Andrew Conway and Keith Earls but flanker James Davies had the final say as he ran in from halfway in the last play of the game.
Of the five Lions tourists on show, the Scarlets duo of Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams totally outshone Irish hopefuls Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony, who failed to make any impact.