Munster win Monday night thriller
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Munster ran in five tries to beat a valiant Cardiff Blues 38-27 in a thrilling encounter at Thomond Park.
No.8 Gavin Coombes scored twice in the first half and the hosts crossed three times after the break to keep Blues at arm’s length.
The visitors scored three excellent tries of their own but slipped to their first defeat of the 2020/21 campaign against a Munster side who now sit top of Conference B with three wins from three.
Games between these two sides have produced plenty of tries in recent years and both were on the board within seven minutes on this occasion.
Blues broke the deadlock in style through Rey Lee-Lo, who was ready and waiting on Jarrod Evans’ shoulder to touch down after the fly-half cut through the Munster backline.
Evans added the extras but Cardiff then lost Willis Halaholo to the sin-bin for a needless trip on Dan Goggin and Munster immediately made their numerical advantage count.
The penalty was kicked to the corner and Coombes was on hand to apply the finishing touch after the home forwards had hammered at the Blues door.
Cardiff avoided further punishment for the remainder of Halaholo’s time off the field and re-took the lead when Evans slotted a penalty following a fine run from James Botham.
Back came Munster, who earned a succession of scrums and penalties in the Blues 22. The pressure eventually told with Coombes, filling the sizable boots of CJ Stander in the Ireland international’s absence, again the man to go over from close range.
Healy slotted his second conversion before exchanging penalties with Evans in the dying minutes of the first half, which ended with Munster 17-13 to the good.
Healy struck the post with the first scoring opportunity of the second half and went to the corner with his next penalty, a decision which was vindicated when Kevin O’Byrne finished off another powerful rolling maul.
The visitors hit back with another high-quality score orchestrated by Evans, who created space with a neat dummy before finding Aled Summerhill to finish with the aid of a quality step inside Mike Haley.
But Blues then shot themselves in the foot as Lee-Lo dropped the restart, allowing Munster the chance to build momentum.
Their lethal pack wasn’t in the mood to pass up such opportunities and this time Coombes turned provider, popping the ball to Jack O’Donoghue to charge over from a couple of yards out and seal his side’s bonus point.
Cardiff were in no mood to lie down and another fine try reduced the deficit to four points, Halaholo making amends for his earlier indiscipline by bouncing off tacklers to finish a neat move on 62 minutes.
The pendulum continued to swing and in a game with eight tries, arguably the best was saved until last as Munster turned on the style.
Quick hands and superb offloads resulted in JJ Hanrahan going over for a score he converted himself to hand the hosts an unassailable advantage.
Coombes knocked on with a hat-trick in sight in the closing stages while Blues couldn’t quite find the fourth try for the bonus point their performance perhaps deserved.
Play of the Day
Munster’s first four tries were finished from a combined total of around five yards but their fifth showed they can throw the ball around when they want to.
A fantastic move, including several fine offloads, was finished off by replacement JJ Hanrahan to finally put Blues to bed after a free-flowing second half.
Each of Cardiff’s first two tries are also worthy of note, with Jarrod Evans influential in both, in a game which featured no shortage of brilliant attacking rugby.
Player of the Match
Jack O’Donoghue put in an excellent shift at the breakdown and powered over the line for his side’s bonus point score.
The forwards were the primary difference between the two sides in a rip-roaring clash and O’Donoghue was at the heart of the action throughout.
The fact he is playing for Munster in an international week is further evidence of the remarkable strength in depth Ireland possess in the back row but more performances like this could help O’Donoghue add to the two caps he has earned for his country.
Tries: Coombes 2, O’Byrne, O’Donoghue, Hanrahan
Cons: Healy 4, Hanrahan
Tries: Lee-Lo, Summerhill, Halaholo
Cons: Evans 3
Pens: Evans 2
Yellow card: Willis Halaholo (Cardiff Blues, 5)
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Chris Cloete, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Damian de Allende
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Liam Williams (captain), 8 Olly Robinson, 7 James Botham, 6 James Ratti, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Dimitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Sam Moore, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Garyn Smith
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Eoghan Cross
TMO: Brian MacNeice