Cardiff Blues 15 Munster 16
Friday 25 March, 7.05pm
The Blues returned to Magners League action after a fortnight’s break and Halfpenny got the Blues on the scoreboard in the first minute following a Munster indiscretion.
Despite the points it was a shaky start, with the Blues dropping off tackles early on, which was causing them problems and giving Munster the chance to work their way into the Blues twenty-two.
Munster did look threatening with Earls showing his pace but was matched by Halfpenny, who did well to cover and tackle. Andries Pretorius also did superbly to track back as the last man when Munster kicked ahead. However, nobody was there to stop the Munster’s try. Earls broke through midfield and despite Halfpenny’s tackle, Leamy collected the pass to score with O’Gara converting.
Halfpenny and O’Gara exchanged penalties to bring the score halfway through the first half to 6-10 and Munster nearly scored again when Fullback Felix Jones broke through some slack tackling by Laulala and Martyn Williams.
John Yapp was sent to the bin for throwing a punch and Andries Pretorius was forced to leave the field to be replaced by Sam Hobbs. O’Gara added a further penalty and the Blues seemed under pressure.
The match flared up and saw Sam Hobbs and Varley joining Yapp with yellow cards. Scott Andrews also went off injured but Halfpenny slotted his third from the penalty. The fight seemed to wake up the Blues who started a good period of attack with Halfpenny again looking dangerous down the wing.
A further Halfpenny penalty just before half time put the Blues only one point behind.
Half time Cardiff Blues 12 Munster 13
The Blues started the second half strongly with a powerful run from Hewitt making inroad indo the Munster half, however they failed to build on this platform and Munster launched an attack with Earls and Mafi combining well and nearly saw Murphy score in the corner.
O’Gara missed a straightforward penalty and the Blues brought on Davies, Parks and Roberts on the 50 minute mark as they aimed to fresh things up with an instant outcome: Parks slotting a penalty to put the Blues ahead for the first time.
This was soon cancelled out by another O’Gara penalty but the Irish fly-half missed a further two and there was only one point in it with 10 minutes left.
However, the Munstermen hung on and the Blues would have it all to do if they were to make it to the top four at the end of the season.
Cardiff Blues 15 Chris Czekaj 14 Richard Mustoe (71off) 13 Casey Laulala 12 Dafydd Hewitt (52off) 11 Leigh Halfpenny 10 Ceri Sweeney (52off) 9 Lloyd Williams
8 Xavier Rush (61off) 7 Martyn Williams 6 Andries Pretorius (24off) 5 Paul Tito (c) (46off) 4 Michael Paterson 3 Scott Andrews (36off/39on) 2 Rhys Williams (46off) 1 John Yapp (19off)
16 Kristian Dacey (46on) 17 Nathan Trevett (36on/off) 18 Sam Hobbs (24on) 19 Bradley Davies (46on) 20 Mamma Molitika (61on) 21 Tom Slater (71on) 22 Dan Parks (52on) 23 Jamie Roberts (52on)
Munster 15 Felix Jones 14 Doug Howlett 13 Johne Murphy 12 Lifemi Mafi 11 Keith Earls 10 Ronan O'Gara 9 Conor Murray
8 Denis Leamy 7 Niall Ronan 6 James Couglan 5 Paul O'Connell (c) 4 Mick O'Driscoll 3 Tony Buckley 2 Damien Varley 1 Wian du Preez
16 Mike Sherry 17 Marcus Horan 18 Stephen Archer 19 Donnacha Ryan 20 Peter O'Mahony 21 Peter Stringer 22 Declan Cusack 23 Sam Tuitupou
Pen Halfpenny x 4
D/G Parks x 1
Tries Leamy x 1
Pen O’Gara x 3
Con O’Gara x 1
Referee: Alan Lewis
Yellow Card: John Yapp, Sam Hobbs, Damien Varley