By Steffan Thomas
Munster became the Cardiff Blues’ first victims of the season as they slipped to a shock 37-13 defeat in Wales.
Victory would have put Munster top of their Guinness PRO14 conference but they were made to pay for not turning pressure into scores.
Tries from Nick Williams, Willis Halaholo, a brace from Tomos Williams plus 17 points from the boot of out half Gareth Anscombe was enough to condemn Munster to defeat.
All the visitors could muster was a brace of tries from Andrew Conway plus three points from the boot of Joey Carbery.
The visitors created enough opportunities to have won the game but their hosts showed far more invention behind the scrum in the second half and were able to make them pay.
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill was under intense pressure coming into the game after back to back losses in Italy leaving the Australian chasing his first competitive victory since joining the Welsh region.
The Blues began the match like a runaway train exerting a large amount of pressure on the Munster line.
Wing Owen Lane thought he had opened the scoring after a mere three minutes when he waltzed over at the corner. But the try was disallowed with the television replays showing Samoan centre Ray Lee-lo blocking Jaco Taute from tackling Lane.
Cardiff hit back immediately with a powerful carry from Willis Halaholo putting Munster on the back foot. The inside centre was tackled just short of the line before powerful former Ulster No 8 Williams powered his way over from short range for the game’s opening try.
But Munster replied to Cardiff’s impressive start with two tries in the space of three minutes. With the home side on the attack on the halfway line Peter O’Mahony nicked possession back for the visitors with an expert turnover.
The Munster skipper’s turnover caught the Blues off guard with the ball spilling out to Conway who chipped over the top of Matthew Morgan before regathering to score at the far right-hand corner.
Conway was back in the same corner moments later after a 60 metre break from Carbery put the Cardiff defence on the back foot. The out half was brought down metres from the opposition try line and the ball was spread wide for Conway to score.
Just as Munster looked to be in control Halaholo burst through their defence with a clean 30 metre break before drawing JJ Hanrahan to put scrum half Williams over.
Carbery narrowed the deficit to a single point with a penalty from 30 metres out following a textbook turnover from former Scarlets star Tadhg Beirne.
The out half’s successful penalty meant Munster turned around 14-13 behind at half time.
Cardiff started the second half even stronger than they had began the first. After an excellent turnover from Nick Williams, out half Anscombe gave the Blues some excellent field position with a touch finder which pinned Munster deep inside their own 22.
The ball was spun wide off the top of the lineout before Halaholo burnt Rory Scannell for pace to extend Cardiff’s lead to eight points.
Munster found themselves further behind when Anscombe landed a penalty from just inside his own half after the visitors were penalised for holding on at the breakdown.
The visitors replied by applying a serious amount of pressure on Cardiff’s line but the home side managed to repel wave after wave of Munster carries before Jenkins won a crucial penalty just short of his own try line to relieve pressure.
Anscombe made Munster pay with a simple penalty from in front of the posts after the Munster scrum was penalised despite going forward at a rate of knots.
The New Zealand born Wales international hit another penalty from just inside his own half after Jenkins had won yet another penalty at the breakdown.
Munster were not clinical enough in the second half having applied a large amount of pressure on the Cardiff line.
The visitors were yet again exerting pressure on the Blues defence but Olly Robinson thwarted their efforts with a brilliant turnover.
Robinson’s excellence at the breakdown put the hosts into a position to end Munster’s hopes of leaving Wales with a win.
Tomos Williams killed Munster off and in the process secured a try bonus point for the Welsh region with a try three minutes from time. With Munster camped on their own try line the Blues went through a number of phases before Williams sniped from short range to put the result beyond doubt.
Munster rallied late on and came close to a consolation try when Carbery broke clear before offloading to Darren Sweetman. But the winger knocked the ball forward in a move which summed up Munster’s night.
Cardiff Blues scorers:
Tries:N Williams 7, T Williams 18, 77, W Halaholo 45, Cons: G Anscombe 8, 18, 46, 78 Pens: G Anscombe 53, 71
CARDIFF BLUES: M Morgan; O Lane, W Halaholo, R Lee-Lo, J Harries; G Anscombe, T Williams; R Gill, K Dacey, D Arhip, G Earle, J Turnbull, J Navidi, E Jenkins (capt), N Williams.
Replacements: K Myhill on for K Dacey (74 mins), R Carre on for R Gill (74 mins), S Andrews on for D Arhip (69 mins), M Cook on for G Earle (64 mins), O Robinson for N Williams (17 -30 mins) on for J Navidi (60 mins), L Williams for T Williams (78 mins), G Smith for W Halaholo 78, T Williams.
Tries: A Conway 11, 14, Cons: Pens: J Carbery 24
MUNSTER: JJ Hanrahan; A Conway, J Taute, R Scannell, D Sweetnam; J Carbery, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, S Archer; J Kleyn, T Beirne; P O’Mahony (capt), C Cloete, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron on for Mike Sherry (74 mins), Dave Kilcoyne on for James Cronin (54 mins), Brian Scott for Stephen Archer (77 mins), Darren O’Shea for Jean Kleyn (77 mins), Tommy O’Donnell on for CJ Stander (66 mins), Jack Stafford, Bill Johnston, Shane Daly on for Jaco Taute (63 mins).