Paul Burke and Jeremy Manning combined to shoot Munster to another crucial Celtic League win and help stretch their lead at the top of the table.
Ulster’s loss at home to champions Ospreys made sure of that.
In truth, it was a pretty poor game between two sides denied access to their star players, but Munster won’t complain and they deserved the win on the basis of a solid second half performance during which they were reduced to 14 players for ten minutes.
Cardiff? Well the 6,000-strong crowd weren’t at all happy that they failed to produce the goods, even if they did score the only try of a game full of mistakes in the midst of genuine endeavour.
Debutant captain Stephen Keogh was obviously delighted. “We had problems with our line out calls in the first half, lost a few, but we addressed the difficulties at half time. I thought we put in a pretty strong second half performance and Paul kept us in the game and in control with his goal kicking.”
Keogh admitted it was a tough debut as captain, but one made easier by the experienced players around him. “You had guys like Burkie, John Kelly and Mick O’Driscoll on your shoulder all the time, so it was not as hard as it might seem. They were a huge help to me,” he said.
“It was great to come here and win. The last couple of times, we got a bit of a pasting and this was a match we identified from early on that we definitely wanted to win.”
The first chance fell to Cardiff within a minute, but Lee Thomas scorned the opportunity from 35 metres out.
Thomas made amends after 17 minutes but that was only an equalising score to the penalty kicked by Paul Burke five minutes earlier.
Burke kicked a second penalty after 25 minutes but then conceded one when he strayed offside three minutes later.
Thomas knocked over the kick to level matters again.
But Burke atoned shortly afterwards, kicking a penalty from 30 metres after David Wallace made the hard run to set up a ruck and tempt Cardiff defenders into an offside position.
Five minutes from half-time, Thomas kicked his third to level the game again and Munster were denied when John Kelly’s drive for the line ended with a penalty awarded to Cardiff from the ruck created when he was stopped short.
Munster took the lead again six minutes into the second half when Burke kicked his fourth penalty from in front of the posts.
Federico Pucciariello was shown the yellow card after 56 minutes for coming into the side of a maul, but Munster dug deep to keep in control, and they did so until restored to 15 players.
In fact, they went further ahead during that 14-man period when Burke and Jeremy Manning kicked penalties to stretch the lead out to 18-9.
But Cardiff, as earlier threatened, did hit back with a marvellous try from Mark Stcherbina and Lee Thomas added the conversion to cut the gap to just two points.
At 18-16 with eight minutes remaining, Munster rallied the troops and defended with their usual tenacity. In fact, they wouldn’t have been flattered to tack on another score and should have been awarded a late penalty for blatant offside. But, the win, however slim, was good enough.
CARDIFF BLUES: R. Warren, R. Williams (captain), J. Robinson, M. Stcherbina, C. Morgan, L. Thomas, R. Powell, M. Jones, G. Williams, B. Evans, D. Jones, J. Goode, K. Schubert, M. Molitika, A. Powell. Replacements. C. Quinnell for Goode (56), M. Lewis for Molitika (57).
MUNSTER: J. Manning, J. Kelly, G. Connolly, T. Halstead, A. Pitout, P. Burke, T. O’Leary, F. Roche, J. Flannery, F. Pucciarriello, T. Hogan, M. O’Driscoll, J. O’Sullivan, S. Keogh, D. Wallace. Replacements. S. Payne for Burke (56), T. Buckley for O’Sullivan (58)
Referee:P. Allan (Scotland)