Munster fall short in Cardiff after poor first half
Cardiff Blues 25 Munster 18
Cardiff produced an impressive display to post a 25-18 Guinness PRO14 victory over Munster on Saturday evening.
Tries from Macauley Cook, Lloyd Williams and Owen Lane put the Blues 19-5 up at the break and two critical late penalties from Jarrod Evans made sure they came out on top.
Munster scored through Chris Cloete and Stephen Fitzgerald, but it was not enough to get them the result as they were second best. Tyler Bleyendaal's penalty with the last kick of the game did at least earn them a losing bonus point.
Both sides were boosted by the availability of a handful of squad members released from Wales and Ireland's NatWest 6 Nations preparations, but the game got off to a scrappy start.
The Blues looked threatening with ball in hand, and after visiting fly-half Ian Keatley somehow missed with what looked a simple penalty effort, the home side moved comfortably ahead.
Three tries in eight minutes did the damage for Danny Wilson's men. First, Ellis Jenkins' long pass found Cook, who dived over. Evans could not convert, but Munster felt hard done by as there looked like a knock-on from Jenkins and a forward pass in the build-up to the score.
Still, the visitors did not help themselves. Duncan Williams' clearance kick was charged down by Lloyd Williams, who scored the Blues' second, and then Rey Lee-Lo kicked ahead from a scrum platform to give flying wing Lane a try. Evans converted both scores.
Munster were shell-shocked, but did at least respond before the break. Cloete was their scorer, peeling off the back of a line-out drive to go over the line.
Keatley kicked a penalty as Munster flew out of the blocks at the start of the second period and Blues hooker Matthew Rees was yellow-carded for offside as the visitors hit back.
Fitzgerald dived over in the right corner to finish off a flowing team move and the conversion was added by the boot of Keatley to set up a four-point game.
The Munster comeback did not last, however. The Blues showed admirable restraint to respond to a tricky spell and, buoyed by a series of replacements, they got back in the driving seat.
Referee Stuart Berry penalised them a number of times, but two critical three-pointers from Evans made sure they were home and hosed.
Bleyendaal came off the bench and his penalty meant Munster did take something from the game, but there was no doubting which side deserved to win.