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Haley's double helps Munster secure a bonus point win and second spot in the URC

Munster defeated Cardiff 42-21 in Musgrave Park to go above Stormers and into second place in the URC.

Mike Haley runs in his first try of the game.
Mike Haley runs in his first try of the game.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

MUNSTER 42

CARDIFF 21

Garry Doyle at Musgrave Park

A MINUTE BEFORE half-time, Johann van Graan made his way down the steps of the main stand at Musgrave Park, en route to the Munster dressing room for his half-time team-talk.

Suddenly he stopped in his tracks just as Ben Healy was weaving his way beyond the clutches of Cardiff defenders. There and then van Graan must have realised the tone of his message was about to change.

Soon enough, the scoreboard was. From holding a slender enough lead, Munster stretched the gap out to 13 points, courtesy of a try from Thomas Ahern that followed a couple of phases after that break by out-half, Healy. Thirteen would become 21 by the time the game ended.

Did Munster deserve it? The answer is yes but that doesn’t stop you finding flaws in the performance, particularly the first quarter, when they coughed up two tries and would have conceded a couple more only for some brilliant defensive work from John Ryan on one occasion, and Jack O’Donoghue on another.

Then again, Cardiff are capable of turning in a display every now and then. Earlier in the season they beat Connacht and Leinster. Here, for a little while, they played with enough intent and speed to suggest they could secure an Irish hat-trick.

But it was not to be. Too much went wrong; their defensive system for a start, their inability to live with the pace Munster played at, for seconds. Two first-half injuries didn’t help their cause either, one for Hallom Amos – who had been playing well – looking serious enough.

ben-healy-takes-a-kick Ben Healy lands a kick for Munster. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

By the finish, Welsh pride as well as bodies was bruised. Munster, really, were too good, the punch they supplied from their replacements proving significant. As an example, Craig Casey’s first try followed a Cardiff restart on 60 minutes, Peter O’Mahony gathering it, before Munster worked their way up from their own 22 to get across the Cardiff line.

As they did so, Casey touched the ball nine times; seven passes, one box-kick and one try-scoring run making this the best introduction to a show in Cork of the weekend – with all due respect to Ed Sheeran who was doing his best across town in the Pairc.

That score stretched Munster’s lead out to 16 points. Let’s face it, on home soil, they weren’t going to be caught. And so it proved.

Still, it would be remiss not to credit Cardiff for their contribution. It was a strange enough opening half. While some of the play was great – Jarrod Evans and Amos ticked that particular box for Cardiff, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue and Mike Haley impressing again for Munster – there were also moments of sloppiness.

No prizes for guessing what van Graan will be focussing on in his Monday morning review. Within three minutes, Cardiff had a try, Ray Lee-Lo getting across the gainline far too easily to create the space that allowed Josh Navidi and Evans combine to free up Amos who then got in between Conor Murray and Simon Zebo. From here, Amos passed out wide to Seb Davies; the lock scored. So, three minutes on the clock, seven points next to Cardiff’s name.

craig-casey-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-alex-kendellen-and-calvin-nash Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

The reply from Munster was immediate. It stemmed from a half-break by Healy, Farrell following up to steal some more yards before Zebo became the third runner in this relay to bring the play deep into the Cardiff 22. And from there all Munster had to do was keep their nerve, and the ball.

They did with Rory Scannell spinning a long pass wide to O’Donoghue who supplied Haley with the chance to run it in. Task completed, the scores were level.

But not for long. In between John Ryan and Jean Kleyn holding up Kristian Dacey over the tryline, and O’Donoghue stripping the ball off Navidi just as the Cardiff captain was eyeing up an overlap to his right, Cardiff scored their second try.

Rey Lee-Lo got this one. Again Amos had found a gap in the Munster defence, Zebo and Healy leaving an avenue for the Cardiff full-back to venture through, and while Zebo recovered to drag winger, Owen Lane, down, soon an overlap was appearing on the opposite wing. Lee-Lo exploited it; Cardiff led 14-7.

You couldn’t pause for breath, though, not when Zebo had a try ruled out for a foot in touch – not when he nearly scored from the subsequent penalty, when a rehearsed move saw him held up by a tremendous tackle from Amos.

Next came a penalty by Healy and then a second try for Haley, who started the move with a darting, diagonal run in midfield. From here, O’Donohgue set Diarmuid Barron clear; Farrell had bulldozed his way into the 22, and with defenders otherwise occupied, Haley had the time and space to get try number two.

By half-time two had become three. There was that Healy break, Farrell, once more, and Haley also doing their bit to keep the ball alive, Ahern following up to get across the line to leave Munster 27-14 up at the break.

Thanks to Lloyd Williams, the Cardiff scrum half, that gap would be cut to six; his opportunist try coming after Zebo had wandered aimlessly infield.

But that was the last we’d hear of them. From there to the final whistle, they were overpowered, overran and outclassed. Casey’s first try epitomised the gap between the teams; his second one, scored from short range with four minutes to go, reminding everyone what he is capable of. Next for Munster is Toulouse. It is fair to say that’ll be a tougher test.

Scorers

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Munster

Tries: Haley 2, Ahern, Casey 2

Conversions: Healy (3/3) Carbery (1/2)

Penalties: Healy (3/3)

Cardiff scorers

Tries: Davies, Lee-Lo, Williams

Conversions: Evans (3/3)

Penalties:

Munster: Mike Haley, Calvin Nash, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo (rep: Shane Daly ’76), Ben Healy (rep: Joey Carbery ’60), Conor Murray (rep: Craig Casey ’60), Jeremy Loughman (rep: Josh Wycherley ’56), Diarmuid Barron (rep: Scott Buckley ’52), John Ryan (rep: Keynan Knox ’56), Jean Kleyn (rep: Jason Jenkins ’60), Thomas Ahern, Peter O’Mahony (CAPT), Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue (rep: Jack Daly ’65)

Cardiff Rugby: Hallam Amos (rep: Rhys Priestland ’30), Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango (rep: Garyn Smith ’27-37 HIA), Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams (rep: Jamie Hill ’64), Rhys Carré (rep: Brad Thyer ’64), Kristian Dacey (rep: Kirby Myhill ’63), Dillon Lewis (Keiron Assiratti ’60), Seb Davies, Rory Thornton (rep: Matthew Screech ’17), James Botham, Josh Navidi (CAPT), James Ratti (Ellis Jenkins ’63)

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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