Munster Rugby 38 - 27 Cardiff Blues
HT 17-13
Mon 26 October 20:15 Thomond Park Ref: Andrea Piardi Guinness PRO14

Munster Rugby 38 Cardiff Blues 27

Mon 26 Oct 2020 20:54 Munster Rugby 38 Cardiff Blues 27

Cardiff Blues left Limerick empty-handed as Munster flexed their forward muscle to climb to the top of Conference B in the Guinness PRO14.

The two teams went into the new look Monday night encounter unbeaten but devoid of their international contingent. 

Wales’ Capital Region were without 17 players due to call-ups or injury, Lloyd Williams the latest withdrawal following his call-up to the Wales squad.

They made a perfect start thanks to a Rey Lee-Lo try after just two minutes and remained in the encounter throughout but they could not do enough to overturn the hosts power, which led to five tries.

Aled Summerhill and Willis Halaholo also crossed for impressive tries and the Blues pressed for a fourth try to claim at least a consolation bonus-point but they were to be denied on a frustrating evening.

It took the Blues just two minutes to open the scoring after impressing virtually straight from the kick-off with a Ben Murphy break.

Typically, the try came from a first phase strike move off a line out with Willis Halaholo taking the ball hard at first receiver before feeding Jarrod Evans. Evans jinked through the red defensive wall before putting Lee-Lo away for the ty and converted to give his side a 7-0 lead.

However, that seven point lead lasted less than five minutes as Cardiff paid the price for a Halaholo yellow card for a trip. 

The hosts kicked to the corner and turned the screw and while the driving line out was well defended, Munster maintained possession and eventually powered over through Gavin Coombes.

Healy converted to level the scores and the hosts dominated the remainder of the yellow card period but were unable to take the lead.

From the last play reduced to 14-men, Cardiff Blues pinched a Munster line out and broke 50 metres thanks to a Corey Domachowski charge which released Botham for an impressive encounter.

The hosts were penalised for not releasing Botham and as Halaholo re-entered the fray, Evans nudged his side back in front.

Munster were increasingly benefiting from marginal refereeing decision and continued to kick to the corner rather than shots at goal. They laid siege to the Cardiff Blues line with Coombes in particular carrying with aplomb.

It appeared as though they had weathered the storm as captain Kristian Dacey pounced for a textbook jackal but after moving to give a penalty Andrea Piardi hesitated and allowed Munster to clear the hooker away.

They continued to hammer away and while they were held up over the line, they stayed camped on the Blues line and Coobes burrowed over for a second, which Healy converted for a 14-10 lead.

Evans instantly hit-back with a well-struck penalty to make it 14-13 to the hosts but Healy restored his side’s four point advantage with a shot of his own on the stroke of half-time.

Munster dominated the opening ten minutes of the second half and continues to capitalise on Cardiff Blues indiscipline. Again they kicked penalties to the corner and on 52 minutes, Kevin O’Byrne drove over the whitewash. 

Healy was once again on target as he stretched the hosts lead to 24-13 and it appeared ominous for Mulvihill’s men. 

They faced an uphill challenge but quickly responded as Evans dummied through the Irish defence before passing inside to Aled Summerhill.

The wing, making his first start of the season, displayed his electric pace and a devastating step to leave Mike Haly for dead.

Evans added the extras to go back within four points but Cardiff put themselves under pressure as Lee-Lo failed to secure the restart with a rare unforced error.

It proved costly as Munster unleashed their power game once more and claimed a fourth try from close range with Jack O’Donoghue the beneficiary.  Healy kept the scoreboard ticking but a pair of quick-fire penalties gave Cardiff the chance to reply.

With Halaholo growing into the game , he was given the ball at pace from a clever set play. James Ratti took the line out at the front but the ball was slipped to the back with Robinson releasing Jones. 

The scrum-half hit Halaholo flat and he bounced off two players for a crucial score, which Evans again converted.

A stunning team try finished by JJ Hanrahan delivered a devastating blow to Cardiff Blues and they entered the final ten minutes chasing an 11-point deficit. 

But, with the visitors still in the hunt for two bonus points, the hosts managed to close the game out in the right areas to seal their place on the top of Conference B.