Munster lose game and props

MUNSTER’S tale of woe continued as they slumped to a Magners League defeat at Musgrave Park last night.

Cardiff squared the four match series this season by taking a second Celtic scalp to atone for two defeats in the Heineken Cup.

It was no more than they deserved because this was, by no means, a top-notch Munster performance. And Munster will also bemoan the fact that they appear to have lost two of their front-line prop forwards, Darragh Hurley and Federico Puciariello with serious injuries.

Both players had to be helped from the pitch last night and will undergo scans this weekend for their respective leg injuries.

Former Welsh second row and Lions icon Bob Norster, chief executive of Cardiff, expressed delight at the win.

“I thought the guys deserved everything they got. They controlled the game and it’s really a huge win for us in the overall context of the league and in relation to qualification for the Heineken Cup next season. We haven’t been together as a squad for some time and Munster, I suppose, are in a similar situation. But when you do get back, it’s important to get back into the mood as quickly as possible. I think we reacted more quickly than Munster did, and this is a very welcome win.

“It gives us an edge towards the top of the table and eases a bit of pressure on us. Munster will be OK; they’re a quality outfit, and that result shouldn’t mean much in terms of their prospects of winning the Heineken Cup. It’s going to be a whole different ball game once they get the full squad back together,” he said.

As usual, Munster started slowly, but they were only three points adrift after Ben Blair kicked an eighth-minute penalty.

They improved from there, but got little enough support from Scottish referee Malcolm Changleng and then disaster struck in the 26th minute when an attack broke down on the Cardiff line. Tom James managed to get a hoof to the ball and went all the way up the pitch, courting possession to score at the posts. Blair converted to make it 10-0 to the visitors.

It got worse. Cardiff normally do well on the ascendancy and they stuck more into attack as Munster sought to get back into the game.

In such difficult conditions, it was dangerous. Blair knocked over a second penalty to stretch the lead to 13 points.

A chip and chase from Christian Cullen could have got Munster back into the game but the Scottish referee, yet again, made a bizarre decision to penalise Munster in an attacking scrum when they looked quite comfortable.

Munster got on the scoreboard with a 42nd minute penalty by Eoghan Hickey, but Cardiff were back in control of that board when Blair kicked another penalty 11 minutes into the second period.

The home side really had to play catch-up and had to wait until the 57th minute for Hickey to put them back to within striking distance.

Munster cranked it up in the last quarter, forcing Cardiff into defence and referee Changleng to recognise that certain things in the camp weren’t right. He yellow carded Marc Stcherbina for a blatant block at a Munster ruck. It should have been a penalty try, but Munster had to settle for the three-pointer from Hickey to cut the gap to seven at 16-9.

But it all changed a couple of minutes from the and when determined Cardiff forced another penalty and Blair duly obliged to put more daylight between the sides. It was, in hindsight, no more than Cardiff deserved for a gritty display in defence and plenty of opportunism in attack.

Munster will be left to worry about the immediate future of Darragh Hurley’s and Federico Pucciariello’s good health as much as the overall display. However, they did get some consolation by way of a bonus point when Hickey kicked a 84th minute penalty.

MUNSTER: C. Cullen, S. Payne, B. Murphy, T. Halstead, J. Kelly (captain), E. Hickey, T. O’Leary, D. Hurley, F. Sheahan, F. Pucciariello, C. Wyatt, M. O’Driscoll, A. Quinlan, J. O’Sullivan, T. McGann.

Replacements: L. Mafi for Payne (injured, 40), D. Ryan for Wyatt (45), T. Buckley for Hurley (injured, 52), M. Melbourne for Pucciariello (injured, 69), D. Fogarty for Sheahan (77)

CARDIFF BLUES: B. Blair, T. James, J. Robinson, M. Stcherbina, C. Czekaj, N. Robinson, M. Phillips, T, Filese, T Rhys Thomas, G. Powell, D. Jones, R. Sidoli, S. Morgan, X. Rush (captain), R. Shellard.

Replacements: M. Luveitasau for James (injured, 48), M. Lewis for Filese (72), B. White for Shellard (66).

Referee: M. Changleng (Scotland).

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