Friday 15 December 2017

Munster go top with Blues triumph

JJ Hanrahan helped Munster to victory over Cardiff
JJ Hanrahan helped Munster to victory over Cardiff

Munster ran in three second-half tries to secure a 33-16 win over Cardiff Blues in their first outing at the newly-redeveloped Irish Independent Park.

After an evenly contested opening 40 minutes in Cork, during which JJ Hanrahan matched Rhys Patchell's three-penalty tally, tries from stand-in captain Denis Hurley and impressive young back rower Jack O'Donoghue put Munster in a winning position

Cardiff flanker Josh Navidi crossed in the 71st minute, but Hanrahan's fourth penalty and a last-minute try from Ronan O'Mahony saw Munster finish with a flourish as they moved to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table.

A dose of flu saw Andrew Conway and Ian Keatley withdrawn from the Munster team before kick-off, with Luke O'Dea and Rory Scannell replacing them. Scannell and man-of-the-match Hanrahan shared time at first receiver throughout the game.

Munster were first to threaten, Scannell being hauled down five metres short before Hanrahan converted his second penalty attempt - just moments after his first kick had come back off the post and into the arms of the leaping O'Mahony.

Following Patchell's opening three-pointer, some neat link play between backs and forwards saw the Blues get in sight of the try-line with Cory Allen and Lucas Amorosino both showing good feet. The net result was another Patchwell penalty.

The Welshmen remained on the front foot as Lloyd Williams' pass was just ruled forward before Gavin Evans broke clear for the posts, and Patchell punished a Donncha O'Callaghan lineout infringement to make it 9-3.

An offside call against Manoa Vosawai allowed Hanrahan to respond off the kicking tee. The Munster full-back duly drew his side level in the 39th minute after Macauley Cook was caught offside.

Anthony Foley's side were much improved on the resumption, profiting from a zippier, direct attack.

Number eight O'Donoghue bulldozed through off quick lineout ball and as the hosts crept closer, centre Hurley burrowed over from a yard out. Hanrahan supplied the extras for a 16-9 scoreline.

Even better followed on the hour mark. A Scannell turnover launched a tremendous length-of-the-field attack as Hurley sent Keith Earls dashing and spinning away from five retreating Blues. O'Donoghue provided the finishing touches, using his strength and speed to break free and score to the left of the posts.

The Blues efforts' deserved a try and Navidi delivered it, slipping through from a ruck in the 22 and holding off Darren Sweetnam to touch down.

Patchell converted to raise hopes of his side claiming a losing bonus point, yet Munster had more in the tank and Hanrahan booted them out of reach before his final pass put winger O'Mahony over for try number three.

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