Cardiff Blues 11 - 20 Munster
HT 8-6
Fri 26 February 20:00 Cardiff Arms Park Ref: Adam Jones Guinness PRO14

Cardiff Blues 11 Munster Rugby 20

Fri 26 Feb 2021 21:02 Cardiff Blues 11 Munster Rugby 20

Cardiff Blues competitive return to the Arms Park ended in slender defeat as Munster clung on in the Guinness PRO14.

The iconic ground staged a Championship encounter for the first time in more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the supporting role in the Dragon’s Heart Hospital.

The capital city outfit led 8-6 at half-time thanks to a fine Seb Davies try and the boot of Ben Thomas.

Munster chipped away and took the lead thanks to Jean Klyne try. Dai Young’s men battled in vain as the clock ticked away but the home side continually found themselves on the wrong side of referee Adam Jones and a controversial penalty allowed the visitors the platform to snatch a second try at the death.

The second consecutive defeat to Irish opposition was significant blow to Cardiff Blues PRO14 hopes with ground to make on Scarlets in Conference B in the final two fixtures of the Guinness Pro14 campaign.

There was no lack of motivation as Cardiff Blues came flying out of the blocks on their home patch but they lacked accuracy with handling errors spoiling early possession.

It also gave Munster, runaway leaders in Conference B, the chance to work into the Cardiff half and put on their trademark squeeze.

They enjoyed two long periods of pressure in the Blues 22 but on both occasions they left empty handed with Shane Lewis-Hughes swooping for a turnover on his own five metre line and then Jamie Hill intercepting and hacking down field.

Having weathered the storm, Cardiff Blues began to put their own phases of attacking pressure together. They clearly came with the intention of attacking in all areas and that was typified by Ben Thomas’ classy cross-kick, which narrowly evaded housemate Owen Lane.

Minutes later Mason Grady sliced through the experienced Munster midfield and zipped a long pass to Aled Summerhill but the electric wing was caught by Calvin Nash.

Nonetheless, Cardiff soon had their reward as Seb Davies galloped through untouched. Having attacked from side to side the platform was laid by carries from Ellis Jenkins and Cory Domachowski.

The ball was recycled and Thomas fired a long flat pass to the left. Turnbull ran a decoy line but the pass reached Davies and he burst clear.

Thomas struck the left upright with the conversion but the Blues had a deserved 5-0 lead after little more than 10 minutes.

Young’s men were dealt a blow when try-scorer Davies was sin-binned for a dangerous clear out just seconds after a similar incident, which appeared much worse, from Jean Klyne on Jenkins.

With the numerical advantage, Munster piled on the pressure but the capital city outfit were up to task with Jenkins in particular making one try-saving effort from no where and Munster’s miss-firing lineout offering some reprieve.

JJ Hanrahan opened Munster’s account with a simple penalty on 27 minutes with Cardiff Blues eventually succumbing to vast spells of pressure.

Back to full complement, Cardiff Blues began to build back into the game and a switch down the blind released Owen Lane. He tore into the Munster half but with plenty of cover defence he hacked through to the corner for Hill.

Munster’s cover defence secured possession, but Hanrahan sliced his clearance to give Cardiff Blues a gilt edged opportunity.

They went through the phases before settling for a Thomas penalty on 37 minutes to regain the five-point advantage. However it lasted just two minutes as Munster won a clever restart and were then awarded a soft penalty to hit back with the score 8-6 at the interval.

There was a frenetic start to the second half with Hanrahan striking the uprights and plenty of opportunities for both sides.

Thomas edged the Blues further in front on 52 minutes with a long-range penalty, making it 11-6, however Munster came storming back.

Hanrahan provided the moment of magic as he chipped over the Cardiff Blues rush defence and beat Matthew Morgan to regather.

Morgan latched onto the fly-half and prevented what would have been a try-scoring offload but the damage was already done. Munster maintained possession and went to their big carriers with Klyne crashing over after three phases.

Hanrahan knocked over the simple conversion to give the Irish outfit the lead for the first time.

Cardiff Blues soon had the opportunity to respond with Thomas’ penalty from the half-way line falling a metre or two short.

Munster were offside from the clearance and then offended with a high tackle with Turnbull opting for a scrum on the five metre line. The Blues however, were penalised at the set-piece leaving Domachowski incensed before his side had yet another chance.

Thomas lined up the three points but hit the left upright for a second time as Munster survived.

With referee Adam Jones increasingly penalising the home side at the scrum, Munster began to take control of the encounter. They were unable to stretch their lead and with less than 10 minutes remaining, Cardiff Blues were still just two points adrift.

A monstrous carry from debutant Mason Grady, gave the Blues hope and another Thomas cross-kick again almost found Lane but beat him into touch.

However, a devastating blow in the final moments left the hosts empty handed, with Niall Scannell crossing from a destructive driving line-out and the returning Joey Carbery slotting the difficult extras.