Munster 42 - 21 Cardiff Rugby
HT 27-14
Fri 29 April 19:35 Musgrave Park Ref: Sam Grove-White United Rugby Championship

Munster 42 Cardiff 21

Fri 29 Apr 2022 21:20 Munster 42 Cardiff 21

Cardiff made the perfect start in Cork but were unable to make it count as Munster powered to a bonus-point victory in the United Rugby Championship. 

The Blue and Blacks raced into an early lead thanks to a Seb Davies try and they battled bravely throughout the injury-hit encounter but the Irish outfit’s quality told.

Rey Lee-Lo also crossed early on, in a performance in which he rolled back the years, but from the moment Mike Haley crossed for his second of the first-half, Munster led. 

The boot of Ben Healy and a Thomas Ahern try put the hosts in the driving seat and while Lloyd Williams crossed to give his side a fighting chance of a comeback, Munster roared back. 

With everything going their way, they claimed a fourth try through Craig Casey and despite long periods of pressure Cardiff were unable complete the comeback.

Casey added a fifth for the hosts but the Blue and Blacks' spirited effort wasn't enough to come away with a bonus point.

Next week they will host Zebre in the final home match of the campaign, before back-to-back trips to face Dragons and Benetton Rugby.

Cardiff went into the encounter seething following a succession of Welsh derby defeats, which effectively ended any realistic hope of clinching a URC qualifying spot, but wasted no time to make an impression in Cork.

It was a fiery start to the encounter, with Lloyd Williams involved in a confrontation which unsurprisingly included Peter O’Mahoney. That saw Munster marched back a further 10 and after kicking to the corner, the wounded Blue and Blacks went on the attack. 

Rey Lee-Lo and Owen Lane made good yards before a rampaging charge from Rhys Carré launched Jeremy Loughman into a different stratosphere. Possession was then spread back to the right where Hallam Amos made an outside break before sending Seb Davies over. 

Mike Haley attempted a try-saving intervention in the corner but he was barged away by the second-row. Evans converted to give his side a 0-7 lead but it did not take Munster long to respond.

They quickly regained the restart and showed impressive ball retention as they went through more than 20 phases, using their big ball carriers and strike runners like Simon Zebo to good effect. 

Cardiff defended well but could not force a mistake or steal possession and the pressure eventually told as a long Ben Healy pass put Haley over.

Healy converted the score and Cardiff would have been disappointed to have surrendered their lead so quickly but they came roaring back. 

They were unfortunate to come away empty-handed after James Ratti and Kristian Dacey went close, with the latter held up over the line but it did not take them long to create a second try. 

Lee-Lo was causing the hosts plenty of problems and after receiving treatment for a bang to the shoulder, he was soon on hand to race clear. 

The inroads were made after Owen Lane scorched down the right following a stunning Hallam Amos offload out the back, and when the ball was moved back to the left, Lee-Lo had plenty in the tank to coast to the corner.

Evans was on target from the touchline to make it 7-14 but it was a sense of de-ja-vu as Chris Farrell soared into the sky to claim Healy’s hanging restart.

This time however, Cardiff survived Munster’s onslaught and they were fortunate to do so. Jarrod Evans made a fine try-saving tackle on home number eight Jack O’Donoghue and moments later a slick set-play sent Zebo over the white wash but he was held up.

Munster soon chipped away at Cardiff’s lead with a simply Healy penalty and the thrilling opening quarter continued to swing between the two teams.

Cardiff were continuing to cause chaos in the Munster defence with Evans pulling the strings and using danger man Lee-Lo as a decoy. 

It was that threatening presence that almost led to a third try as the Munster defence focussed on the centre, allowing Evans to ghost through. He offloaded to Williams on the inside but the scrum-half could not quite make it. 

The Blue and Blacks had a further opportunity but the ball was slapped out of the grasps of Williams just as the ball was about to be shifted left. 

Munster were next to threaten and their relentless physicality was beginning to take a toll. First Rory Thornton departed clutching his shoulder, then Theo Cabango was sent for a HIA following a brave tackle on Rory Scannell. 

Again the pressure eventually paid off as Haley sliced through the middle for this second. Healy converted and he soon added a penalty after Hallam Amos left the field on a medical buggy.

The full-back was combining down the right with Lane when he was caught by an awkward tackle and looked to suffer a hamstring injury. It was a cruel blow for the medical student, who retires at the end of the season to become a junior doctor, and now may not feature again. 

Amos left the field to a standing ovation from the Cardiff bench and Rhys Priestland was introduced at 15 with Garyn Smith temporarily on the wing in the place of Cabango, who returned on 36 minutes.

Munster then delivered a significant blow on the stroke of half-time as they claimed a third try. It came from nothing as Cardiff powered into the Munster half with a ferocious driving maul that went without reward.

The hosts soon snatched possession and with the final play, Thomas Ahern crashed over with Healy again on target to make it 27-14 at the break. 

Battered and bruised Cardiff refused to throw in the towel and came out fighting in the second-half and survived a succession of Munster onslaughts before they hit back.

They were beginning to run out of options following breaks from Max Llewellyn and Lane, and forward charges from Carré and Ratti, but Williams dummied at the breakdown and sniped over unopposed.

Such was the audacity of the dummy that one Twitter user likened it to Moses parting the Red Sea. 

Evans knocked over the simple conversion to bring the score to 27-21 with the final quarter approaching. 

Healy kept the scoreboard ticking with a well struck penalty following a harsh penalty against Navidi at the breakdown.

That made it 30-21 and, as the casualties continued to mount with Dillon Lewis next, the hosts soon wrapped up the result as they claimed a fourth try through Craig Casey, converted by replacement Joe Carberry - 37-21. 

A quick tap allowed Casey to cross for a brace, but Cardiff continued to hunt a bonus point, with the likes of Lane and Cabango providing some spark in attack. However, the visitors eventually came away empty handed and will now turn focus to the final home game of the season.