Missed kicks give Munster the Blues

A BRIDGE too far for Munster to win a third Magners League game in succession against leaders Cardiff Blues, despite their best efforts at Musgrave Park last night.

A crowd of 6,500 did their level-best to roar them to victory, but Munster made far too many unforced errors to deserve victory. Cardiff looked more composed on the ball and more secure off it.

Even on a disappointing night when Munster couldn’t hold onto the prized and hard fought possession they won, they may not be ashamed with a two point defeat against a team with just that little more experience this season, in their fifth game against Munster’s third.

Not that the leaderboard looks ominous for Munster. Cardiff have also lost one of their games this season, at home to Leinster, and Llanelli’s big win over the blues in Dublin last night won’t have gone unnoticed in any quarters.

Munster’s assistant coach Jim Williams made no reference to the fact that the so-far reliable goal-kicker Paul Warwick missed three reasonable attempts at goal that ultimately proved the difference against a fired up visiting side, but he was disappointed with the result.

Munster started brightly, but they still found themselves eight points in arrears inside the opening 10 minutes.

Nick Robinson kicked a penalty and then winger Tom James took advantage of a breakdown to hack on and score. Munster’s Paul Warwick was agonisingly short of the target with a subsequent penalty attempt, and another after 19 minutes.

There was a sense of the bizarre in the 21st minute when referee David Changleng signalled for a knock-on against Cardiff; the ball was booted forward and when a Munster player touched it ahead of the kicker he was penalised.

Robinson kicked his second penalty to stretch the lead to 11 points. It didn’t help that Warwick appeared to have lost his kicking boots when given an opportunity from 30 metres. It was easy, but he missed at a stage when Munster should have been within a couple of points of the leaders, and not so far adrift.

Then the game turned. Warwick kicked a 38th minute penalty and after a sensational conclusion to that rather lack-lustre first half, added the extra points to a Mark Melbourne 41st- minute try.

Munster, awarded a penalty, went to squeeze their Welsh opponents and made several drives at the Blues’ line before Melbourne finally wriggled over for the try. 11-10 to Cardiff at the break.

The extra seven points put Munster right back into the game, and one could even sense a bit of panic within the normally calm ranks of the Cardiff Blues management.

That anxiety was relieved within four minutes of the kick off for the second-half when Tom James went in for another try after a movement involving forwards and backs. Munster had no chance of defending against it, but it was still a blow.

There was worse to come, with Nick Robinson knocking over a penalty in the 53rd minute, moments after the popular introduction of Munster heroes Frankie Sheahan and Alan Quinlan. That penalty put Cardiff into a nine-point lead and Munster, playing relatively poorly, had it all to do to get back into the game.

Indeed, they struggled terribly, and Cardiff winger James was stopped feet from the line in the 64th minute. !

Munster did storm back to score a try credited to Niall Ronan in the 69th minute and Warwick added the conversion to leave just a couple of points between the teams.

But then disaster almost struck again for Munster. Richie Rees scampered in for a “try” only to be called back for a previous off the ball incident by one of his colleagues. Munster breathed a huge sign of relieve, and they had a couple of minutes to save the match — unfortunately, there weren’t enough minutes, nor enough composure.

MUNSTER: S. Payne, I. Dowling, K. Lewis, R. Tipoki, A. Horgan, P. Warwick, T. O’Leary, F. Pucciariello, D. Fogarty, T. Buckley, M. Melbourne, M. O’Driscoll, J. Coughlan, A. Foley (captain), N. Ronan.

Replacements: F. Sheahan for Fogarty, D. Hurley for Pucciariello, A. Quinlan for Melbourne (all 50), L. Mafi for Lewis (56), J. Manning for Horgan (62), J. Manning for A. Horgan (66),

CARDIFF BLUES: B. Blair, J. Roberts, J. Robinson, D. Hewitt, T. James, N. Robinson, R. Rees, J. Yapp, G. Williams, G. Powell, B. Davies, R. Sidoli, S. Morgan, X Rush (captain), R. Sowden-Taylor.

Replacements. D. Jones for Davis (58, injured), R. Johnson for Sidoli, S. Roberts for Davies (both 64).

Referee: D. Changleng (Scotland).

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