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Rassie Erasmus' Munster taste home defeat to Cardiff in Cork

Darren Sweetnam was superb for the southern province.

Munster 23

Cardiff 24

Murray Kinsella reports from Musgrave Park

RASSIE ERASMUS TASTED defeat for the first time as Munster’s director of rugby as the Cardiff Blues secured a deserved Guinness Pro12 win in Musgrave Park.

Gareth Anscombe is tackled by Dan Goggin Dan Goggin pressures Gareth Anscombe. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Munster enjoyed several encouraging passages in front of an impressive crowd of 7,405 in Cork but the Welsh region just about had the greater cutting edge to score three tries to Munster’s two.

After an outstanding defensive performance in Llanelli last weekend, there were more frequent lapses for Munster without the ball, while their attacking ambition was not always matched with clinical execution.

They did have more possession this time around, although their game was kick heavy. Those tactics brought some success in the opening half, but the Blues managed Munster’s kicking tactics more comfortably in the second and their winning score came from a sublime kick return sparked by replacement Matthew Morgan.

Darren Sweetnam’s emergence continued for Munster with an excellent performance on the right wing. The former Cork hurler has been earning rave reviews from his team-mates for his training performances and looks ready to fully deliver on his longstanding potential.

Jack O’Donoghue and Dave O’Callaghan were strong in the back row for Munster, while Rory Scannell had a good 40 minutes in midfield. The centre did depart injured at the break, while Munster will also worry about injuries to Tommy O’Donnell and Dave Foley.

The Blues were impressive on the road, with man of the match Josh Navidi leading a superb back row display.

Sweetnam was the star of the first half for Munster, with his muscular regathering of a somewhat fortunate bounce to Ian Keatley’s clever chip kick allowing the wing to then offload superbly inside for Andrew Conway to score.

The Cork man smashed carriers into touch, won aerial contests and looked threatening with every touch, particularly when linking with hungry fullback Conway, who was making his first appearance of the season.

Keatley – who was 100% off the tee – converted that 10th minute try for Munster, drawing the sides level after an excellent Tom James score had allowed Cardiff to take the lead.

Offloads from the promising Tomos Williams and ex-Ulsterman Nick Williams saw captain Gethin Jenkins make metres wide on the right for Cardiff.

From there, two passes were swept into midfield, where James was able to take advantage of a mismatch and outpace Niall Scannell, stepping inside the despairing covering tackle attempt of Keatley.

Gareth Anscombe had converted that try and added a penalty for a scoreline of 10-7 to Cardiff heading towards the quarter mark.

Some excellent Munster attack saw Erasmus’ men go level again in the 29th minute. First O’Callaghan carried dynamically, then Dan Goggin offloaded cleverly for the impressive Rory Scannell to make metres. Cardiff failed to roll, and Keatley slotted the penalty.

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The Blues had the half-time lead, however, after an excellent set-piece strike four minutes before the break. Rey Lee-Lo stepped inside Goggin’s tackle, burst 30 metres into the Munster half and fed James inside to score untouched.

Andrew Conway scores a try Conway scored a first-half try for Munster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Anscombe’s straightforward conversion put the Welsh region into a 17-10 lead at the interval.

Munster lost Rory Scannell to injury at half-time, with O’Donnell and Foley following him off early in the second half.

O’Donnell’s exit did mean the introduction of crowd favourite CJ Stander and he immediately helped Munster to win a big maul penalty.

Munster reduced the lead with 54 minutes played as Keatley fired over a penalty to reward his pack’s huge scrum effort. Sweetnam continued to hassle the Cardiff backfield and Munster felt momentum swing back their way.

They opted for the right-hand corner with a penalty as the game entered the final quarter and after a series of punishing pick and jams, replacement loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne bludgeoned his way over, Keatley’s conversion taking Munster 20-17 ahead.

Anscombe missed a long-range shot at goal soon after, as he had done in the first half, but the introduction of Wales international Morgan off the Blues’ bench sparked their most important attacking success.

The fullback gathered a Munster clearance and initiated the counter by making a half-break and offloading to Lee-Lo, who in turn found the surging sub scrum-half Lloyd Williams.

The Wales international drew in Conway and sent Dan Fish soaring over the tryline, allowing Anscombe another easy conversion.

Keatley’s excellent penalty strike drew Munster back to a one-point deficit at 24-23 with eight minutes remaining, but the Blues managed possession intelligently in the closing stages to record their second win of the season.

Munster scorers:

Tries: Andrew Conway, Dave Kilcoyne

Conversions: Ian Keatley [2 from 2]

Penalties: Ian Keatley [2 from 2]

Cardiff scorers:

Tries: Tom James [2], Dan Fish

Conversions: Gareth Anscombe [2 from 2], Steve Shingler [1 from 1]

Penalties: Gareth Anscombe [1 from 3]

MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell (Cian Bohane ‘HT), Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams (Tomás O’Leary ’66); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne ’55), Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey ’66), John Ryan (Brian Scott ’73); Dave Foley (Donnacha Ryan ’52), Billy Holland (captain); Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell (CJ Stander ’45), Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacement not used: Stephen Fitzgerald.

CARDIFF BLUES: Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Rey Lee-Lo, Tom James (Matthew Morgan ’67); Gareth Anscombe (Steve Shingler ’67), Tomos Williams (Lloyd Williams ’53); Gethin Jenkins (captain) (Rhys Gill ’49), Kristian Dacey (Matthew Rees ’59), Taufa-ao Filise (Scott Andrews ’49); George Earle (Josh Turnbull ’63), Macauley Cook; Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams (Sam Warburton ’49).

Referee: Ian Davies [WRU].

Attendance: 7,405.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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