Cardiff Blues 24 Munster 28
Several dozen Blues supporters headed for the exits long before Paddy Butler started to lift himself off the plastic surface of the Arms Park after edging Munster in front in the closing minutes of this Pro12 encounter.
There was still three minutes left and a score would still win it for Cardiff, even after Johnny Holland superbly steered the conversion over, but every man, woman and child in the stadium on Saturday knew that wasn’t go to happen.
After all, if they were not able to win it when they had all the possession and all the vital statistics in their favour, what chance had they of turning over the specialists of tight finishes?
Anthony Foley’s men had just four survivors from the side which started against Saracens — and there wasn’t much Munster DNA in them with two South Africans, an Aussie and a Dubliner — along with several emerging players, but they had the composure and guile to produce the sort of escape act their predecessors would have been proud of.
Every statistic — carries, metres made, possession and scoring chances — were all massively in Cardiff’s favour but the one which mattered, the scoreboard, was always tilted towards the men. That was largely due to the flawless boot of JJ Hanrahan, who landed seven from seven despite blustery conditions and a variety of angles and distances. His open game still needs polishing but that will come. However, this sort of display off the tee is going to keep the pressure on Keatley.
Rory Scannell made his debut in the centre and impressed, while CJ Stander continues to be their player of the season in a back row where Robin Copeland upped his game against his former employers. Throw in the experience of captain Donncha O’Callaghan and Billy Holland in the second row along with a hard front row and Munster had the foundation to frustrate and wear down a Cardiff side looking for only their second win of the campaign.
Said Foley: “I have said it to the boys inside the dressingroom we are not in the performance business, we are in the result business. The wins since Zebre have propelled us up the table and given us a certain position in Europe. But that is all it is for us at the moment.
“We accumulate, we drive to play better and get better. I think that will happen. I think as a young coaching group we are finding that things don’t happen as quickly as we would like. It is just about being patient and change will happen eventually.”
Munster looked to be in trouble when man of the match Manoa Vosawai pushed Cardiff into the lead 18 minutes from the end after Argentine wing Lucas Amorosino crossed for the opening try seven minutes from the break. But Munster responded with an eight-phase move which Butler finished in style.
“I think we played with pace at that stage. I think that was the thing we wanted to do — up the tempo, create multi-phase, get the ball, shift a couple of passes and take them on the wider channels where their stragglers were. “We eventually got to that and Paddy took it well. It was one of those ones where you hang in there. You are not playing particularly well. There were a lot of things going wrong. I thought the boys functioned below standard but you can’t disregard the commitment and the heart and the attitude,” added Foley.
Hanrahan kept Munster in the hunt with a flawless kicking display in the opening half and when Cardiff piled on the pressure after the restart Munster did superbly to turn over a succession of Cardiff five-metre scrums.
“I thought that was a crucial moment around the time of the scrums down the left corner and we managed to get out of there.
“It alleviated a lot of pressure and that was a big turning point,” added Foley, after their fifth win on the trot. Hanrahan drew Munster level after Vosawai’s try but when Gareth Davies restored the lead seven minutes from time it was another Rockwell College old boy who snatched it for Munster as another generation starts to come of age in time-honoured fashion.
Scorers for Cardiff Blues: L Amorosino, M Vosawai tries; R Patchell, 3 pens; G Davies pen, con.
Scorers for Munster: P Butler try; JJ Hanrahan 7 pens, J Holland con.
CARDIFF BLUES: R Patchell; R Smith, A Thomas, G Evans, L Amorosino; G Davies, L Williams; S Hobbs, M Rees, A Jones; J Hoeata, F Paulo; J Turnbull, J Navidi, M Vosawai.
Replacements: D Fish for Patchell (52), K Dacey for Rees (58), M Cook for Hoeata (61), E Jenkins for Navidi (71), L Jones for Williams (71).
MUNSTER: J Murphy; A Conway, A Smith, R Scannell, G van den Heever; JJ Hanrahan, D Williams; J Ryan, K O’Byrne, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan (capt), B Holland; CJ Stander, P Butler, R Copeland.
Replacements: E Guinazu for O’Byrne (52), R O’Mahony for Conway (62), C Sheridan for Williams (60), S Archer for Botha (65), J Holland for Hanrahan (74).
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy).
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