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Munster victory boost their top-four bid

MATCH REPORT: Jack Crowley scored a second half try and kicked the clinching 74th-minute penalty in Munster’s 20-15 United Rugby Championship win over Cardiff at Thomond Park.

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Ben Thomas and replacement Thomas Young both crossed to give Cardiff a 12-10 lead on the hour mark but they could not avoid a fifth straight league loss.

A lone Crowley penalty had Munster leading 3-0 at half time, with the hosts frustrated by nine handling errors across the opening 35 minutes.

Munster captain Tadhg Beirne and Thomas swapped tries, with the latter running in a fine intercept effort, before Young profited from John Ryan’s sin-binning to score from a maul.

Man-of-the-match Crowley scrambled over and finished with 15 points, albeit replacement Jacob Beetham’s late penalty gave Cardiff a deserved bonus point.

Cardiff flank Ellis Jenkins was the first half’s dominant figure, showing his trademark ability at the breakdown but also spearheading some promising attacking phases.

Jenkins and Mackenzie Martin forced penalties at the breakdown to thwart Munster and a Mike Haley knock-on ruled out a 20th-minute try for John Hodnett.

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It was end-to-end stuff at times and with the error count still high, Crowley punished a Tinus de Beer offside to kick the first points in the 38th minute.

Having blown a lineout opportunity before the interval, the Munster pack were rewarded eight minutes into the second period when Beirne burrowed over after back-to-back penalties.

Crowley’s conversion was followed by more cohesive attacking, yet a 10-phase attack was ruined by Thomas swooping on a Craig Casey pass to speed clear and score under the posts.

With De Beer adding the extras, Cardiff held on to the momentum and skipper Liam Belcher was lifted in a dangerous cleanout by Ryan who saw yellow.

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A strong lineout drive saw Young make it 12-10, only for 14-man Munster to respond quickly as Crowley evaded a couple of tackles and muscled his way over beside the posts.

The Ireland flyhalf topped off his own try and Munster tightened up their defence, forcing a key knock-on near their own line before Crowley split the posts with the decisive penalty.

The result moved Graham Rowntree’s men back above the Stormers into fourth place but Beetham’s long-range kick ensured 12th-placed Cardiff pocketed a point on the road.

Man of the Match: While Cardiff had some impressive individual performers in Jenkins and Mason Grady, there was no denying Crowley the award as his 15-point haul decided the outcome, particularly the converted try and penalty in an 11-minute spell.

Scorers:

For Cardiff:
Tries: Thomas, Young
Cons: De Beer
Pens: Beetham

For Munster:
Tries: Beirne, Crowley
Cons: Crowley 2
Pens: Crowley 2

Teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Seán O’Brien, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (captain), 4 RG Snyman, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Eoghan Clarke, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 John Ryan, 19 Tom Ahern, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Ethan Coughlan, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Simon Zebo.

Cardiff: 15 Cam Winnett, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Mackenzie Martin, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Seb Davies, 4 Ben Donnell, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Carré, 17 Evan Lloyd, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Jacob Beetham, 23 Theo Cabango.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland) and Sam Holt (Ireland)
TMO: Matteo Liperini (Italy)

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