Cardiff 25-18 Munster: Blues earn precious PRO14 victory at Arms Park
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 18/02/18 3:20pm
Cardiff Blues dispatched an error-strewn Munster at Arms Park 25-18 in the PRO14 on Saturday, as they closed the gap on the Cheetahs in the Conference A table.
The Blues raced into a 19-0 first-half lead courtesy of tries from Macauley Cook, Lloyd Williams and Owen Lane, while two second-half Jarrod Evans penalties confirmed the victory.
Munster responded with a first-half score from flanker Chris Cloete, as well as a second-half Ian Keatley penalty and Stephen Fitzgerald try.
The Blues next travel to face Zebre in the PRO14 on Sunday, February 25, while Munster host Conference A leaders Glasgow Warriors on Friday, February 23 in Cork.
After a strong start to the game, Munster looked set to hit the front eight minutes in when Matthew Rees infringed at the maul, handing Keatley a penalty attempt on the Blues 22, 15 metres in from touch.
The attempt from the Munster 10 was extremely poor, however, as he hooked the close-range effort wildly wide.
A little over 10 minutes later and the Blues hit the front through second row Cook.
A Keatley's kick after a Munster scrum went straight out on the full, handing Cardiff field position, before Danny Wilson's men aggressively went through the phases and Ellis Jenkins wonderfully shipped the ball out to the right wing for Cook to finish.
After 24 minutes, Cardiff were over again as their kick pressure paid dividends with scrum-half Lloyd Williams charging down opposite number Duncan Williams in the Munster 22 and diving over for a soft score.
Keatley's restart was kicked straight out, and in the very next phase winger Lane romped over for Cardiff's third score down the left flank.
On 34 minutes, Munster finally got on the scoreboard themselves as Cloete touched down in the corner after a couple of dominant maul sets by the pack. Keatley's conversion was hooked wide.
Two minutes from the half, the Blues were camped on the Munster line looking to clinch a bonus-point score but No 8 Robin Copeland earned a vital turnover penalty for the visitors which kept them in the hunt.
One minute from the break, Keatley missed touch with a penalty to finish an utterly miserable half for the Munster fly-half.
Munster were first to nab points in the second period after an energetic start, with Jenkins' high tackle on Keatley presenting a penalty from directly in front of the sticks, which the Munster 10 knocked over.
Johann van Graan's side looked for all money to be over for a try on 49 minutes, but Blues flanker Jenkins did remarkably well to hold the ball up.
Three minutes later, after more incessant Munster pressure and a series of Blues penalties, hooker Rees was sin-binned for offside on his own line.
Just over a minute later, Munster had their second score through full-back Fitzgerald, after they shipped the play wide having bashed away through the forwards for several phases.
That was as good as it got for Munster during the sin-bin period, however, as Cardiff intelligently ran the clock down before they were restored to 15 men.
In the 68th minute, Cardiff notched their first points for 40 minutes as fly-half Evans slammed a penalty through the uprights after a maul discretion by Munster.
With five minutes remaining, Evans struck another penalty as referee Stuart Berry harshly penalised prop James Cronin at the ruck.
Munster did earn a five-metre attacking lineout with three minutes to go, but it was stolen by Seb Davies and with it went any chance of mounting a comeback for the Irish province.
There was still time for the returning Tyler Bleyendaal to confirm a losing bonus-point with the final kick of the match via a penalty, but it was scant consolation after a frustrating evening for the men in red.