Playing a high tempo game including more of the offloads and pop passes which have been a feature in the early season combined with excellent scrummaging provided the bedrock of this performance by a strong Munster team as the internationals return to the fold. Penalties conceded meant that Cardiff kept the scoreboard ticking over in the first half, and indeed the visitors went in ahead at halftime. However the hosts “gave them nothin’” in the second half to make it 4 wins from 5 this season.
Cardiff had pinned Munster back into their own 10m area with some touch finders ROG himself would have been proud of in the opening quarter. When Munster strayed offside their first penalty was successfully converted in the 7th minute by Jarrod Evans.
Munster responded well with some direct running. The lineout was secured by Billy and the maul formed. Niall Scannell made a break and was supported by his captain Peter O’Mahony who carried before Killer distracted us all when his shorts were pulled down to his knees as he took on the ball! As a result several of us on the west side missed the lovely exchanges between Ian Keatley and Darren Sweetnam running good lines off each other to bring play into the Cardiff 22. Thanks to TG4 for the highlights!
While that attack broke down when Tommy knocked on, the pressure put on by the pack on the Cardiff scrum won a penalty for Munster. Despite losing possession from that lineout they kept the pressure on the visitors and when Cardiff kicked the ball away Munster returned it with intent. Jaco Taute’s offload put Alex Wootton away down the wing. CJ took it on before it went back to Wootton who was hauled down but Cardiff conceded another penalty. Munster took it quickly, CJ surged forward but was stopped short. A strong carry by Rory Scannell brought play close to the line and it was returning Lion Conor Murray who grounded the ball against the post to get Munster off the mark. Ian Keatley converted to make it 7-3 after 13 minutes.
Jaco looked very uncomfortable after making a tackle in mid field. Nick Williams came over to sympathise with him as did CJ and after medical treatment he was able to sit into the motorised stretcher to be taken off the pitch. Hopefully he will not be out for long.
Cardiff added a second penalty to reduce the gap to a single point and just minutes later scored a try after a good break down the west side by Tom James who was stopped by CJ only for Cardiff to quickly move play to the east side, stretching the defense as Steve Shingler set up Josh Turnbull to score and take the lead 7-13.
A penalty was successfully converted by Ian Keatley to reduce the gap to 3 points temporarily before another penalty conceded near half way restored Cardiff’s 6 point lead. Jarrod Evans had tried to steal a metre or 2 but the crowd and Peter O’Mahony highlighted his error and the referee moved him back to the mark. The distance was not a problem to him as the ball sailed over the bar.
Another penalty conceded in front of the posts by Cardiff was again successfully kicked to reduce the deficit in the 35th minute and so it remained despite the pressure heaped on Cardiff in the closing minutes of the half.
Munster dominated the opening minutes after the restart. Lovely handling and offloading out of the tackle were impressive. From a lineout on the 5m line Munster looked to turn possession into points. Cardiff conceded penalty after penalty with their scrum under pressure near their line. When the yellow card was finally shown to their tighthead prop we were surprised that a penalty try was not awarded, and then annoyed as from the next scrum Cardiff were awarded a free kick to relieve the pressure.
However, Munster made their numeric advantage count. Peter nearly rivalled Killer’s wardrobe malfunction when his shorts were also yanked down in the build-up to the third try, scored in the 52nd minute when John Ryan powered over from just outside the 5m line to make it 20-6.
Handbags ensued shortly afterwards between Peter and Matthew Rees which was as good an excuse as any for another rendition of “Stand Up and Fight”.
Andrew Conway gave way for the returning Kerryman JJ Hanrahan who was barely on the pitch when he was involved in the 3rd try. He passed the ball to Rory Scannell who took a great line through the midfield while JJ looped around in support before taking the pass as Rory was tackled to score the third try.
We had a laugh when one of Keatley’s excellent kicks to touch flew into the section next to us. When the ball knocked the plastic container held by one of the lads there, he managed to hold on to most of it but some people got a beer shower! I see a screen shot of it on the MRSC Facebook page – some gas expressions on the faces as people were trying to avoid being hit by the ball and the beer!
There was another super break when Darren’s pass put Alex Wootton into space and he raced to within 10m of the try line. Unfortunately, Robin Copeland in support could not get to the line and possession was lost but a few minutes later it was Chris Farrell who made the break and found Sweetnam in support. JJ took it on next and when he was tackled Conor Murray managed to squeeze down the blindside, keeping out of touch. He was dragged down just metres from the line but Copeland was there to pick and dive over to secure the bonus point. Keatley converted to make it 34-16.
A high tackle in the 71st minute gave Munster a good platform to attack. New short term signing Mark Flanagan made his debut and secured the lineout.
Another lovely pass by MOTM Keatley put Hanrahan through a gap and he showed his pace to score in the corner. The conversion went wide leaving the score at 39-16.
Peter O’Mahony was replaced by another Kerry and Currow man, Sean McCarthy making his second Munster appearance.
Cardiff Blues were desperate to score something in the second half and threw everything at Munster. A superb last-ditch tackle by Rhys Marshall on Blaine Scully in the 74th minute and by JJ on Tom James in the 76th minute were key to preventing this while the pack withstood pressure in the closing minutes to keep Cardiff scoreless.
So with the Lions trio and the Ireland tour players back in contention and injuries to Jean Kleyn in Glasgow and Jaco Taute in this game the management will have some key selection decisions to make as they prepare to renew rivalries with Leinster before starting their European campaign.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway (JJ Hanrahan 54’); Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute (Chris Farrell 20’), Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray (Duncan Williams 73’); Dave Kilcoyne (Liam O’Connor 72’), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall 57’), John Ryan (Stephen Archer 61’); Robin Copeland (Mark Flanagan 70’), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (c) (Sean McCarthy 74’), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
CARDIFF BLUES: Rhun Williams (Matthew Morgan 61’); Blaine Scully (c), Jack Roberts (Steven Shingler 16’), Willis Halaholo, Tom James (Keiron Assiratti 49-58’); Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams (Lloyd Williams 71’); Brad Thyer (Corey Domachowski 70’), Matthew Rees (Ethan Lewis 61’), Taufa’ao Filise (Keiron Assiratti 58’); George Earle (Seb Davies 64’), James Down; Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams (Macauley Cook 61’).
Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU).
Match stats on ESPN site here
Sky sports report including video highlights are here
“I’m sure glad to be, / To be where I c’n see / So many friends o’ mine”
It was a lovely bright afternoon and given the early kickoff the west terrace basked in the sunshine for a while before the sun moved behind the stand. The choir and pre-game interviews were conducted on the west side for a change but the choir returned to the east side for the anthemic Stand Up and Fight prior to the start of the game.
GG (the injured lock Gerbrandt Grobler) and Dave O’Callaghan came by on their way down from the MRSC bar for a photo with some folks on the terrace.
At half time as well as the 4 mini’s team the sinbin chair was pulled out into the pitch and I wondered why. All was revealed – one of the “Dare to Care” fundraisers for TodayFM’s annual cancer appeal had featured a Munster lady being part of the Leinster guard of honour on Friday night. Her “punishment” was to be sinbinned in Thomond Park at halftime.
Some folks who had seen my post on Twitter and Facebook last week about the death of my beloved Dad – who has featured in this blog from time to time – came over to offer their condolences. Many others had shared their sympathies via social media which was appreciated as was the note posted to me by Denise in Louth who I assume is a reader.
So last week instead of a blog I wrote and delivered the eulogy for my Dad. Martin Ryan had asked if we would like to have the Thurles RFC flag drape his coffin. Martin is now the last surviving member of that team from the 1940s. In my eulogy I recalled how Dad had been about 9 stone and 5’8″ so not your typical rugby build. I could picture him as another Stringer, fearless and wiry but when I asked him what position he had played he said that he was often on the wing but if they were stuck he would take his place in the front row! I can’t imagine it but maybe his love of wrestling gave him a few tricks up his sleeve to make it a fairer contest there! During the summer he moved into a lovely nursing home but he had his car outside so when he felt up to it he could drop into town or out to the house and he would enjoy coming home for lunch and a drive when one of us was visiting each weekend. He loved the independence the car gave him but needed the support of the nurses when his breathing was in trouble due to his COPD. He enjoyed the bit of banter with them also. During the summer we had enjoyed watching the third Lions test together there as they had Sky Sports!
For the Communion song we had requested “The wind beneath my wings” as that is how Daddy was – the strong silent type but so supportive of his three girls, encouraging and reassuring, and ready to do anything for us – DIY, gardening, taxi or even baby sitting services for his three grandchildren (now teenagers) who thought he had a €5 printing machine as they never left after a visit without some extra pocket money.
Our Parish priest is a lovely singer and he started his homily with
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me
Dad would have been 92 in a few weeks but it is never easy to say goodbye. As Niamh tweeted me “Daddies are such special men x” I will miss telling him about my life, my rugby trips and friends, the funny things that happen on the terrace; hearing about his day and his tales from times gone by, but I am fortunate to have so many happy memories of my time with him, my hero. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.