Clinical Munster cruise to bonus-point win in Cardiff
Munster claimed a comfortable bonus-point victory over a below-strength Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park to return to the top of the RaboDirect PRO 12 standings.
Ospreys had briefly moved above the Irish province after they defeated Zebre, but Munster had no trouble returning to the top of the pile through tries from Felix Jones, Damien Varley, James Cronin and Andrew Conway, with fly-half JJ Hanrahan kicking four conversions and a penalty.
Cardiff scored one try through Kristian Dacey, with Simon Humberstone kicking the conversion and an early penalty.
While the Welsh region were missing more than 20 players through international calls and injuries, the Munster squad were without only three players required by Ireland.
The Blues had the early territorial advantage, but it took 12 minutes before they could convert it into points. Munster disrupted possession illegally in front of their own posts and, although they escaped a yellow card, Humberstone, who had missed a chance from long range, slotted over the simple penalty.
The Irish stormed back for a try with their first significant incursion into the Blues' half and it was created by former home favourite Casey Laulala. The Kiwi centre swerved outside a slipping Gavin Evans and offloaded superbly for full-back Felix Jones, one of five released by the national team, to race over, with Hanrahan converting.
Munster began to dominate and skipper Varley snatched a loose ball and drove over despite the attentions of Lewis Jones, with Hanrahan once again adding the extras.
When the Blues repeatedly failed to clear from their own 22, the visitors suddenly found prop Cronin in the happy position of being able to ignore the three backs outside him and trot in. Hanrahan's kick went over off a post and he promptly landed a straightforward penalty when Josh Navidi strayed offside.
Two minutes into the second half Munster grabbed the bonus-point try when Felix Jones sped through and sent wing Conway in at the flag, the faultless Hanrahan converting from the touchline.
The Blues threw themselves into attack and, after Munster number eight C.J. Stander was sin-binned, the pack drove hooker Dacey over for a try confirmed by the TMO. Humberstone's kick took his side into double figures.
With the inevitable substitutions disrupting play and the result no longer in doubt, Munster took their foot off the pedal, although replacement hooker Mike Sherry was still competitive enough to see yellow at the breakdown.
It made little difference, with the Blues unable to take advantage of the extra man.