Saturday 20 January 2018

Denis Hurley inspires Munster to a stirring success at Independent Park

Munster 33 Cardiff 16

Billy Holland, Munster, takes the ball in the lineout ahead of Macauley Cook, Cardiff Blues
Billy Holland, Munster, takes the ball in the lineout ahead of Macauley Cook, Cardiff Blues
JJ Hanrahan, Munster, is tackled by Cory Allen, Cardiff Blues
Dave O'Callaghan, Munster, is tackled by Tom Isaacs, Cardiff Blues

Declan Rooney

Munster illuminated their first outing at a chilly Irish Independent Park, as a win inspired by skipper Denis Hurley saw them climb to the top of the Pro12 standings.

Jack O'Donoghue also bagged a try on his first start for the province who were inspired by a terrific outing from Keith Earls.

The loss of Ian Keatley to flu meant a mini-reshuffle for Munster who swapped JJ Hanrahan from full back to his preferred out half position, with Rory Scannell going in the opposite direction.

And the Northampton bound Hanrahan gave Munster the lead in the 11th minute with a straightforward penalty from underneath the posts, but that chance only arrived when his earlier kick rebounded off the posts and Ronan O'Mahony's determination earned him a second chance.

But Cardiff had started brightly, and when Rhys Patchell kicked the levelling penalty - his good interplay with Lucas Amorosino forced Jack O'Donoghue to hold on - it was well deserved.

Patchell doubled his tally in the 18th minute when Billy Holland was penalised for the same offence after he brought Manoa Vosawai's piercing run to a halt, and he made it 9-3 to the visitors on the half hour mark when Dave O'Callaghan infringed at a lineout on the left.

Despite the deficit Munster continued to attack from deep. Duncan Williams was proving dangerous at the back of the ruck - he often looked for the inside pass to catch out Cardiff's drift defence - while the returning Luke O'Dea, in for his first start since December 2012, also featured heavily.

Five minutes from the break Hanrahan put three points between the sides with a simple penalty after an offside infringement, but his equaliser on the stroke of half time was the toughest kick of the lot from wide on the right.

The second half didn't start to well for Munster as the Cardiff scrum began to gain the upper hand, but the home side took a significant stride towards the win in the 48th minute when Denis Hurley crossed for the game's opening try. Both Ronan O'Mahony and Hanrahan were halted inches short, but once quick ball was generated Hurley did well to power over from a few inches.

Hanrahan kicked the conversion from the left for a 16-9 lead as Munster began to take advantage of a few defensive errors from the Blues. a mazy run from Earls after 60 minutes almost sent Hanrahan in for a try. The Kerry man was stopped in his tracks, but Billy Holland was on hand to send O'Donoghue in to grace the move with the try it deserved.

Hanrahan's conversion made it 23-9 for the home side, but Josh Navidi hit back ten minutes later for Cardiff when he spun out of the tackle well, but Ronan O'Mahony wrapped it up with his last minute try.

Scorers - Munster: D Hurley, J O'Donoghue, R O'Mahony tries, JJ Hanrahan 4 pens, 3 cons. Cardiff Blues: J Navidi try; R Patchell 3 pens, con

Munster: JJ Hanrahan; L O'Dea (D Sweetnam 67), K Earls (I Dineen 64), D Hurley, R O'Mahony; R Scannell, D Williams (N Cronin 77); J Ryan (D Kilcoyne 48), E Guinazu (N Scannell 71), BJ Botha (S Archer 66); Donncha O'Callaghan, B Holland; S Dougall (P Butler 64), Dave O'Callaghan (S Buckley 77), J O'Donoghue.

Cardiff Blues: J Tuculet, R Smith, C Allen, G Evans (T Isaacs 55), L Amorosino, R Patchell, L Williams (T Knoyle 58); S Hobbs (T Davies 29-35 temp & 49), M Rees (K Dacey 31), A Jones (T Filise 55); M Cook, F Paulo; J Turnbull, J Navidi, M Vosawai (E Jenkins 63).

Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)

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