Munster Rugby 31 - 27 Cardiff Blues
HT 21-10
Fri 28 May 19:35 Thomond Park Ref: Andrew Brace Rainbow Cup

Munster Rugby 31 Cardiff Blues 27

Fri 28 May 2021 21:20 Munster Rugby 31 Cardiff Blues 27

Cardiff Blues paid the price for a costly 10 minutes in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup as Munster hung over for a slender victory at Thomond Park.

Dai Young’s side made the perfect start in Limerick as Tomos Williams finished a fine try in a dominant opening quarter but indiscipline soon crept in.

Some appeared marginal but there could be few complaints as Munster displayed their clinical edge and forward power to capitalise with three tries. 

It was a devastating 10 minutes but the capital city outfit came roaring back. Williams completed a brace following the restart and his replacement Lloyd Williams finished a Josh Turnbull break before Jarrod Evans reclaimed the lead.

But a devastating blow came from a Gavin Coombes turnover, which led to Keynan Knox crossing for a bonus point-sealing try. 

It was an admirable showing from Young's men, who came whiskers away from grabbing a dramatic last play winner, but the hosts secured the victory after a captain's challenge.

Cardiff, buoyed by a pair of Welsh derby victories, made a bright start at Thomond Park and enjoyed a pair of early half opportunities, which they were unable to capitalise upon.

However, they did not have to wait long to bag the opening try as Willis Halaholo struck following strong carries from James Ratti and Kristian Dacey. Jarrod Evans took the quick-ball standing flat and his fellow Wales international hit a razor sharp short line to slice through the Irish defence.

He tore into the danger zone and released scrum-half Williams on the switch, who did enough to finish despite the best efforts of Andrew Conway.

Evans added the extras to give his side a seven-point advantage after just four minutes. Unsurprisingly Munster came storming back as they were handed an attacking scrum after Williams was caught out by one of the new variations being trialled in the Rainbow Cup.

They went through the phases and played with typical physical intensity but some smart work from James Botham drew a penalty and Evans cleared.

Dai Young’s men continued to cause the hosts problems as they played with the same ferocity seen during the first half in recent weeks. They enjoyed the lion’s share of territory and possession and settled for an Evans penalty on 18 minutes.

Munster hit back shortly after the half hour mark after they benefitted from a succession of penalties, including two in which Andrew Brace marched the Blues back ten metres.

Niall Scannell was the scorer after a well organised line out with Joey Carbery adding the extras and they took the lead minutes later after another marginal penalty paved the way for Fineen Wycherley to power over.

Carbery was on target from wide to stretch the hosts’ advantage to 14-10 and the Irish storm was unrelenting. 

They made it three tries in less than seven minutes as they manufactured another close-range line out thanks to an impressive kick-chase and Scannell rumbled over again.

Carberry kept the scoreboard ticking to make it 21-10 before a bout of handbags at the break.

It appeared ominous shortly after the break as Carbery kicked another penalty to the corner allowing his giant pack to set up their powerful driving lineout once more. However, unlike in the first half, it was defended superbly to secure a scrum where a penalty was won.

It was a decisive moment as Evans kicked his side to the half-way line and following a succession of phases they struck with a stunning team try.

With Evans and Ben Thomas providing two play-making options in tandem, Munster were constantly posed questions in defence. On this occasion, Evans pulled the ball back to Thomas, who popped a short pass to Seb Davies at pace.

The second-row cantered to the 22 before finding Hallam Amos in support, who then put Williams away for his second of the evening.

Evans slotted the conversion to blow the game wide open at 21-17 but their momentum was brought to a halt as Carbery made no mistake from a silly penalty. 

Despite Carbery’s intervention, Cardiff were undeterred as they threw everything at the hosts in attack. 

Good work from Josh Adams created space down the left and as Hallam Amos was bundled into touch, Munster were fortunate not to see red. Mike Haley flew at his opposite number leading with his shoulder colliding head on head.

Both players departed for HIAs but Brace deemed there were sufficient mitigations to downgrade a red card offence to yellow.

Cardiff kicked to the corner and while the line out drive was held at bay, a loose try was quickly created. 

It appeared as though a good attacking opportunity was lost as the ball squirted loose but Dillon Lewis flicked the ball across to Thomas, who collected from his boot straps to find Josh Turnbull.

You would put all your money on Turnbull releasing Matthew Morgan, who was on for Amos, and was in space but he pivoted and sold an audacious dummy to part the red sea.

He galloped past three players and had just enough in the legs to reach the five metre line and slip an offload over his shoulder to Lloyd Williams running a trademark support line.

Evans was on target to level the scores and with the game in the balance both teams traded blows.

Intelligent play in the final ten minutes and a breakdown penalty gave Evans the opportunity to reclaim the lead and he duly obliged, making it 24-27.

However, following a loose kick Munster once again reverted to their powerful pack and Keynon Knox burrowed over following a sustained period of pressure. 

Cardiff still battled away admirably, however, and piled on the pressure as the clock turned to red. The likes of Ben Thomas and Jason Harries made crucial yards before the pack took over, showing composure and eventually winning a penalty.

They opted the scrum, but the hosts called for a captain's challenge and were successful in their efforts, allowing Carbery to send the ball dead, securing a narrow victory.