Saturday 20 January 2018

We must win mental battle – Laulala

Cardiff Blues 10 Munster 31

Casey Laulala insists Munster must maintain momentum after returning to haunt Cardiff Blues.

The former All Black centre spent three seasons in the Welsh capital before moving to Munster. Here, at the Arms Park, he was in flying form for the Reds and had a hand in two of four tries as Munster managed to climb back to the top of the Pro12 table on Saturday night.

Felix Jones, Damien Varley and James Cronin crossed in a dominant first half for the visitors. They sealed the bonus early in the second half thanks to Andrew Conway before the Blues rallied with a Kristian Dacey try, but it was merely a consolation.

Rob Penney's men return to south Wales to face Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday before turning their attention to the Heineken Cup double-header with Perpignan.

Man of the match Laulala said: "We had a bit of experience compared to Cardiff, but we still had to do a job and we did it, which was the pleasing thing. We made a couple of mistakes at the start, but we adjusted well and came through it all right.

"We've been winning games, we're not particularly happy with the way we're playing, but we're showing character.

"There are lots of positives, our defence is going well and hopefully the guys coming back will add a lot to the mix. It is something to build on heading into the Heineken Cup.

"Historically, we're not that great the week before Europe, so one of the big goals we have set is to win that game against the Dragons. Half of the battle is mental, so if we win that game, we will be in a good place.

"We messed up the first game in Europe, but have got ourselves back into it and now we have to crack on and keep it in our own destiny."

Cardiff took the lead thanks to a Simon Humberstone penalty, but Munster dominated the remainder of the half.

Laulala did the damage for the first, spotting a slip in midfield, he made the break and sent Jones over.

Varley ghosted through the breakdown for a second try and within three minutes Munster claimed a third, with a comical charge-down laying the foundations for Cronin to race over. They wrapped up the bonus point three minutes into the second half with a Laulala break and trademark flick releasing Jones to send Conway over.

Cardiff hit back through Dacey as Munster paid the price for indiscipline with yellow cards for CJ Stander and Mike Sherry.

Munster were without 14 frontline players for the clash due to international call-ups and injuries.

Penney is hopeful of welcoming back Donnacha Ryan, Ian Keatley, James Downey and Keith Earls ahead of Europe. "We had 14 guys unavailable; three with Ireland and the rest broken or recovering," he said.

"Hopefully we will have a couple back for Europe and then a few more by Christmas. Then we can fire on all cylinders."

Cardiff Blues – T Williams; R Smith, G Evans (G Davies 41), D Hewitt, C Czekaj; S Humberstone, L Jones (T Williams); S Hobbs (c) (T Davies 74), K Dacey (R Williams 58), T Filise (B Bourrust 64), M Cook, J Down, A Pretorius (R Watts-Jones 58), J Navidi, R Copeland (L Hamilton 74).

Munster – F Jones; A Conway (D Hurley 56), C Laulala, I Dineen, J Murphy; JJ Hanrahan (J Holland 75), C Sheridan (D Williams 62); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 63), D Varley (M Sherry 65), BJ Botha (S Archer 63), D Foley (DF O'Callaghan 41), B Holland, D O'Callaghan (J Coughlan 58), S Dougall, CJ Stander (D Varley 71).

REF – D Wilkinson (Ireland).

Irish Independent

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