Coughlan try swings tense clash for Munster
Cardiff Blues 15 Munster 16
Published 26/03/2011 | 05:00
Munster clung on at Cardiff City Stadium to claim a vital victory in their quest to claim the Magners League title.
James Coughlan scored the game's only try in the first half, while Ronan O'Gara kicked the rest of his team's points in a bad-tempered and tense contest against Cardiff Blues.
The victory extended Munster's lead at the top of the Magners League to 13 points. That result will also have been greeted with cheers at Ravenhill given that Cardiff, despite gaining a losing bonus point, missed the chance to leapfrog Ulster in the play-off positions and remain in fifth place with only five games remaining.
Munster led 13-12 at half-time after an opening period that saw three players shown yellow cards for punching.
Lee Halfpenny struck the opening points of the game inside a minute while O'Gara saw his first attempt sail wide, though it was the strong running of Munster that saw them take an early grip on this game.
Keith Earls' break led to the game's only try as he accepted possession in acres of space before stepping on the gas. The Ireland wing found Coughlan on his shoulder, and he dived over.
O'Gara converted but Munster failed to consolidate, conceding a penalty within 60 seconds of the re-start to hand Halfpenny a second kick.
Wales prop John Yapp was sent to the sin bin after lashing out at Mick O'Driscoll off the ball, and O'Gara kicked a second penalty to leave the visitors 13-6 to the good after half an hour. But Munster allowed that favourable position be compromised by sinking to the hosts' level.
An innocuous ruck inside Munster territory turned into a five-man brawl that saw Damien Varley and Sam Hobbs shown yellow cards.
Paul Tito and Johne Murphy tangled on the ground and needed no second invitation to take matters into their fists. Halfpenny slotted the resulting penalty and when Tony Buckley was reprimanded for needlessly infringing at a ruck, the Welshman slashed Munster's lead to 13-12 on the stroke of half-time.
O'Gara was off-target on 48 minutes and Dan Parks slotted a drop-goal after the break, but O'Gara regained the lead for Munster on 59 minutes after a powerful surge by O'Connell.
The fly-half missed two more chances to settle the tie and Munster were left biting their nails as Parks missed a late drop-goal attempt.
Cardiff Blues -- C Czekaj; R Mustoe, C Lualala, D Hewitt (J Roberts 51), L Halfpenny; C Sweeney (D Parks 51), L Williams (T Slater 69); J Yapp (S Hobbs 29), R Williams (K Dacey 46), R Thomas 65), S Andrews (N Trevett 32-34), M Paterson, P Tito (Capt, B Davies 46), A Pretorious (S Hobbs 23-29), X Rush (M Molitika 60), M Williams.
Munster -- F Jones (S Tuitupou 65); D Howlett, J Murphy, L Mafi, K Earls; R O'Gara, C Murray (P Stringer, 56); W du Preez (M Horan 54), D Varley (M Sherry 59), T Buckley (S Archer 11-18), M O'Driscoll (D Ryan, 59), P O'Connell (Capt), D Leamy, J Coughlan, N Ronan (P O'Mahony 59).
Ref -- A Lewis (IRFU).