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Munster 20 Cardiff 15

First Team News | 30th March 2024

Jacob Beetham landed a long-range penalty with his first act to salvage a losing bonus-point as Cardiff battled bravely in a thrilling encounter at Thomond Park.

The Blue and Blacks enjoyed plenty of opportunities against the reigning BKT United Rugby Championship title-holders but it was Munster that took a 3-0 lead into the break - a scoreline that defied an action-packed first-half. 

The Limerick-based outfit extended their lead with a Tadgh Beirne try after the break but Cardiff battled back heroically with scores from Ben Thomas and Thomas Young. 

That but Cardiff’s noses in front before BKT Player of the Match, Jack Crowley danced and jinked his way over but Beetham ensured his side left with a losing bonus-point with a fine last minute penalty. 

Matt Sherratt was boosted by the availability of six returning Wales internationals and Corey Domachowski, Keiron Assiratti, Alex Mann, Josh Adams and Cam Winnett went straight back into the starting line-up.

Martin, Mann and Winnett were all in the thick of it from the off at Thomond Park. It was an electric opening 10 minutes with Winnett bursting with confidence on his return to Cardiff colours. 

First, he saved a penalty kick from reaching touch with some acrobatics and almost pulled off a remarkable 80m 50-22, he bamboozled three defenders with a clever exit and then combined with  Mason Grady and Owen Lane. 

Munster also threatened thanks to their speed of ball and Craig Casey pulling the strings but any threats were extinguished by the good work of Ellis Jenkins and Mackenzie Martin at the breakdown, who both swooped for key turnovers. 

It looked as though Munster had broken the deadlock as Cardiff tried to play their way out of danger on 20 minutes. They moved the ball left and John Hodnett crashed over but following a TMO intervention, the try was chalked off for an earlier knock on. 

Next it was Cardiff’s turn to come close. First, a fine dummy, charge and offload from Domachowski almost released Bevan, who could not hold on. 

Then just two minutes later, a clever snipe from Ellis Jenkins at the breakdown saw the flanker run clear and kick through. Bevan was winning the race but with plenty of pressure he shanked his attempted grubber into touch.

The Blue and Blacks continued to cause Munster problems, with Ben Donnell bursting through the middle. However, support was limited and following a long, looping pass to Jenkins, the ball and opportunity was lost. 

Jack Crowley finally broke the deadlock with a simple penalty on 38 minutes after Bevan was caught at the breakdown and de Beer was caught in an offside position. 

The hosts claimed the first try on 49 minutes after Munster kick a succession of penalties to th corner. Tadgh Beirne eventually powered through Cardiff’s committed defence but they could be forgiven for feeling aggrieved after what appeared a textbook turnover from Jenkins went unrewarded. 

Crowley added the conversion to give Munster a 10-0 lead and the Irish province continued to turn the screw. They hammered away in the Blue and Blacks twenty-two but Thomas intervened with a superb read and interception to race 100 metres for his sixth try of the season. 

It was a try against the run of play but a deserved reward for Cardiff’s efforts, particularly in the first-half. De Beer knocked over the simple conversion to make it 10-7. 

Momentum continued to swing into the Cardiff’s favour when John Ryan was sent to the sin-bin but it perhaps, should have been more.

Following a loose line out, the replacement prop and Sean O’Brien lifted Liam Belcher at the breakdown and tip tackled the hooker into the floor. Had the Cardiff captain not been able to break his fall, he would have landed on his head.

However, following a long consultation, it was decided there was not a high degree of danger and only a yellow was given. 

Cardiff kicked to the corner and rumbled over with Thomas Young dotting down. De Beer was unable to add the extras from wide and moments later Crowley displayed some footwork Michael Flatley would have been proud of as he skipped past a succession of defenders. 

Crowley converted to give Munster a five-point lead with 15 minutes remaining before Cardiff stormed back. 

They hammered at the Munster line with wave after wave of forward carries but remarkably the hosts did not infringe during the 25-phase play and held strong until Will Davies-King lost possession over the whitewash. 

The Blue and Blacks were then dealt a blow as Crowley added a penalty to stretch their lead to eight-points with just five minutes remaining. 

However a thundering tackle from Ben Thomas laid the foundations for a late turnover penalty and Beetham showed his nerves of steel.