Murray helps Munster take full advantage
Munster 45 Cardiff Blues 21
Conor Murray recovered from a head injury to score the bonus-point try for Munster at Irish Independent Park as the home side maintained their hopes of top spot in Conference A.
First-half tries from Chris Farrell and Jean Kleyn kept Munster ahead of a lively Blues side, and after Rey Lee-Lo put Cardiff ahead after the break, replacement CJ Stander and Murray wrapped up the five-point haul, before Andrew Conway and Sammy Arnold signed off the win.
Murray had left the field before the break for a HIA, while Munster finished with 14 players when Peter O'Mahony was taken off with four minutes remaining after he sustained a shoulder knock. Before kick-off Keith Earls was a late withdrawal after he sustained an injury in the warm-up, but with Tyler Bleyendaal in brilliant form it didn't seem to disrupt Munster.
With the wind blowing across the field in favour of Cardiff in the first half, Munster were up against it in the opening period, but a brilliant lineout steal from O'Mahony settled them in the first minute.
The home side could have opened the scoring after five minutes when a strong Munster scrum earned the penalty, but Bleyendaal was unable to reach the posts from the ten-metre line into the wind.
Cardiff have been one of the in-form sides in the PRO14 with four wins from their last five games, and they showed the incisive attack in the seventh minute. Rey Lee-Lo ran a brilliant curving line that got him past Farrell, and after taking possession, scrum-half Tomos Williams showed great pace to score. Gareth Anscombe made it 7-0 with the conversion.
A no-arms tackle by Seb Davies got Munster on the board after 12 minutes when Bleyendaal kicked the penalty. Munster were the better side for the most part; they totally dominated the set-piece battle, and a second lineout steal - this time from Billy Holland - put them on the front foot. Their try arrived in the 18th minute when O'Mahony forced the turnover and Farrell drove over beside the post for a 10-7 lead.
Cardiff's lineout woes were not helping their cause. An overthrow in Munster territory launched an attack for the home side, and after Rory Scannell pushed them into the Cardiff corner from a penalty, Murray provided the assist for Kleyn to score. Again Bleyendaal was successful with the extras, which put Munster 17-7 ahead.
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A clash of heads with his opposite number saw Murray leave the field for a head injury assessment just before half-time, but there was still time for the Blues to hit back. Anscombe and Matthew Morgan linked on the left and sent Aled Summerhill clear, and a clever dummy pass inside helped him to score in the corner.
Despite all their pressure Munster only led 17-14 at half-time, but they did have Murray back after the restart. Anscombe looked like levelling but his penalty was off the mark, but his side soon hit the front. Again it was Williams and Lee-Lo in the thick of it, and a quick-tap penalty from the scrum half sent Lee-Lo over.
With Glasgow Warriors racing to a bonus point win over Ulster, it was vital that Munster reclaimed the lead, and five minutes after his introduction Stander ran in his side's third try, which put them into a 24-21 lead with half an hour remaining.
Just after the hour-mark Munster claimed their key fourth try when Murray finished from an inch after Dave Kilcoyne had been held short, but they needed the TMO to confirm the score. Conway bagged Munster's fifth try 14 minutes from time and Bleyendaal slotted his fifth conversion, his final act in an outstanding display.
Munster - M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell (S Arnold 75), R Scannell, D Sweetnam; T Bleyendaal (JJ Hanrahan 67), C Murray (A Mathewson 37-ht HIA & 64); D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 64), K O'Byrne (N Scannell 48), J Ryan (S Archer 53); J Kleyn (T Beirne 55), B Holland; P O'Mahony, C Cloete, A Botha (CJ Stander 45).
Cardiff Blues - M Morgan; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo (H Millard 59), A Summerhill (G Smith 57); G Anscombe, T Williams (L Williams 59); R Gill (B Thyer 55), K Dacey (E Lewis 53), D Lewis (K Assiratti 69); S Davies (G Earle 69), R Thornton; S Lewis-Hughes (J Botham 67), O Robinson, J Turnbull.
Ref - M Mitrea (FIR)