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Six-try Munster secure Pro14 play-off with big win over Cardiff in Cork

Johann van Graan’s side maintain the pressure on Glasgow in pursuit of a home semi-final.

Andrew Conway slides in for Munster's fifth try.
Andrew Conway slides in for Munster's fifth try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster 45 

Cardiff Blues 21 

Barry Murphy reports from Musgrave Park

MUNSTER CLINCHED A bonus point victory over Cardiff Blues to assure themselves of a Pro14 play-off berth and maintain their hopes of snatching a home semi-final off Glasgow Warriors at the top of Conference A.

Johann van Graan’s bench power proved the difference at sold-out, and rain-soaked, Musgrave Park on Friday night, as the southern province built on their winning momentum. 

First-half tries from Chris Farrell and Jean Kleyn had Munster in the ascendency at the interval, and despite falling behind after the excellent Rey Lee-Lo scored after the restart for the visitors, the European semi-finalists ground out the victory.

Replacement CJ Stander powered over five minutes after his arrival, before Conor Murray sealed the bonus point with his side’s fourth try 19 minutes from time.

Andrew Conway scored their fifth five minutes later before another replacement, Sammy Arnold, marked his return from injury with a try-scoring cameo. 

On the downside, Munster finished the game with 14 players after Peter O’Mahony was taken off having received treatment to a shoulder injury in the dying moments, Keith Earls didn’t start after he was injured in the warm-up, while Murray also had to leave the field for a head injury assessment, which he passed.

Tyler Bleyendaal kicks a conversion Bleyendaal kicked 13 points. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

After a lively start, Tyler Bleyendaal was off target with the first opportunity of the game after five minutes, as the gale force wind blowing across the ground made place-kicking a difficult task. 

And it was the visitors, themselves chasing a top-three finish in Conference A, who took the lead two minutes later, when Tomos Williams raced clear to score after a blistering midfield break. Fresh from his Six Nations heroics, Gareth Anscombe kicked the extras for a 7-0 lead.

Bleyendaal clipped the lead back when Seb Davies was penalised for a no-arms tackle on Billy Holland in the 12th minute, and six minutes later Munster took the lead.

A trademark O’Mahony near the Cardiff line provided the platform for Farrell to power over from close-range, and then Kleyn followed suit off a lineout move. 

Cardiff hit back in style when Matthew Morgan freed Aled Summerhill and the winger tore down the sideline to score.

Munster were still 17-14 ahead at the interval, but Cardiff started the second half as brightly as they finished the first. While Anscombe missed an easy penalty attempt on 43 minutes, he converted a third try — not surprisingly from Lee-Lo — who was sent clear by scrum-half Williams from a tap-penalty.

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CJ Stander scores a try Stander charges over. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cardiff’s lead was short-lived, though, as birthday boy Stander — on for Arno Botha — charged in for a seven-pointer, which handed Munster a 24-21 lead. From there, the province assumed complete control.

Midway through the half, further Munster pressure yielded another try and a bonus point. Murray was rewarded when he took the direct route and Bleyendaal converted to push the scoreboard advantage out to 10 points. 

Conway got in for the fifth try and Arnold was on the pitch less than a minute when he crossed, with JJ Hanrahan tacking on the extras. 

Munster scorers:

Tries: Chris Farrell, Jean Kleyn, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold.
Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal [5 from 5], JJ Hanrahan [1 from 1].
Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal [1 from 2].

Cardiff scorers:

Tries: Tomos Williams, Aled Summerhill, Rey Lee-Lo.
Conversions: Gareth Anscombe [3 from 3].

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell (Sammy Arnold 75), Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; Tyler Bleyendaal (JJ Hanrahan 67), Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson 37-ht HIA & 64); Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman 64), Kevin O’Byrne (Niall Scannell 48), John Ryan (Stephen Archer 53); Jean Kleyn (Tadhg Beirne 55), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony, Chris Cloete, Arno Botha (CJ Stander 45).

CARDIFF BLUES: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo (Harri Millard 59), Aled Summerhill (Garyn Smith 57); Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams (Lloyd Williams 59); Rhys Gill (Bradley Thyer 55), Kristian Dacey (Ethan Lewis 53), Dillon Lewis (Keiron Assiratti 69); Seb Davies (George Earle 69), Rory Thornton; Shane Lewis-Hughes (James Botham 67), Olly Robinson, Josh Turnbull.

Referee: Marius Mitrea [Italy].

Gavan Casey and Ryan Bailey are joined by Bernard Jackman to look back on a thrilling weekend of European rugby on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:


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Barry Murphy

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