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Munster dig deep as Keatley boot seals it

Munster produced a vintage display to maintain their winning start to the PRO12 campaign as they defended superbly to thwart a Cardiff side who dominated possession.

One stat summed up the whole game. After 21 minutes Cardiff had enjoyed 91pc of possession, but Munster still led 6-3.

That's the way it remained throughout, although there was a nervous finish with Ian Keatley in the sin-bin and Munster frantically defending their lead.

Cardiff kicked a penalty to the right corner and then went wide, but just when it seemed the try was on, Dan Fish sent a forward pass to Alex Cuthbert and the chance to win it at the death was gone.

Cardiff dominated the opening half in possession terms, but it was Munster who held a 12-3 half-time lead.


The visitors led a charmed life in that opening quarter -- the television match official was twice called into action in little over a minute in the opening quarter, with both decisions favouring the the visiting side.

In the first instance, Cuthbert seemed poised to score in the right corner after a good swift build-up, but Denis Hurley managed to drag him a fraction into touch, the decision going Munster's way after a long viewing by the TMO.

Munster, though, lost the line-out and a surge from Cardiff again saw the TMO called into action, this time ruling that loosehead prop Sam Hoggs had not managed to ground the ball.

Keatley kicked four penalties, and Ceri Sweeney finally found the range after missing two easy kicks.

Munster's proud defensive record was finally smashed four minutes after the restart when they conceded their first try of the season.

Paul Tito used all his experience to hold up possession and send Cuthbert through on a great angle from deep to score down the right wing.

Sweeney added the difficult conversion to make it 12-10 after 44 minutes, but the Munster response was immediate, gaining the hard yards and when Cardiff were penalised for dissent, Keatley slotted another penalty from 40 metres.

He pushed Munster 18-10 in front after 58 minutes with another difficult penalty, this time from 45 metres, to put two scores between them.

But Cardiff once more took over and forced Munster on the back-foot and while Cardiff rarely threatened inside the '22', Sweeney pulled back another penalty under the posts after 70 minutes. That set up a frantic closing spell as Cardiff came in waves in a bid to prevent a second defeat on the spin.

Munster held on to the finish, though, with Hurley in particular producing a superb defensive display. Munster will hope to build on this when they head to Edinburgh next weekend as league leaders after another outstanding display.

Cardiff Blues -- D Fish; A Cuthbert, G Evans, D Hewitt (C Laulala 53), R Mustoe; C Sweeney, R Rees (L Jones 53); S Hobbs (R Harford 68), R Thomas, S Andrews (N Trevett 68); P Tito (J Down 61), S Jones; M Paterson (T Young 73), M Molitika, X Rush.

Munster -- J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes (T Gleeson 66), L Mafi, D Hurley; I Keatley, D Williams (P Stringer 51); W du Preez (J Ryan 77), M Sherry (D Fogarty 53), S Archer (J Hayes 69); B Holland, M O'Driscoll; P O'Mahony (D Foley 56), T O'Donnell, J Coughlan (N Ronan 29).

Ref -- D Wilkinson (IRFU).

Irish Independent