Munster were ruthless and clinical as they ended a two-year wait for a win at the Arms Park by putting Cardiff Blues to the sword to leave the Welsh capital with a priceless bonus-point.
Half-backs JJ Hanrahan, named as man of the match, and Alby Mathewson led the way. Scrum-half Mathewson scored two tries and Hanrahan kicked 13 points as they sent the Blues crashing to a fourth successive defeat of the season.
Many thought Johann van Graan had gone a step too far in making 11 changes from the side that had beaten the Ospreys the previous weekend, but in testing the strength in depth of his squad he found there is plenty of talent to pick from.
“We’d struggled here for the last two seasons and we wanted to make this one count. We chose to play into the wind,” said Van Graan, who saw his side score from seven of their eight trips into the home 22.
We defended pretty well in the first half, even though they scored at the end to get back level, and we were all pretty calm in the break. The second half performance was really good.
Jarrod Evans kicked the Blues, who had first use of a strong wind that never got up to the predicted speeds of 50mph, into the lead, although opposite number Hanrahan returned the compliment seven minutes later. The Blues hit back immediately from the re-start when Kristian Dacey pulled off a brilliant turn-over in front of the Munster posts. Up stepped Evans, and over went another penalty.
Handling was difficult because of the conditions and the first try of the game came shortly after the forwards had warmed themselves up with a bout of handbags. Dan Goggin made the initial cut, Darren O’Shea and Mathewson carried on and finally Chris Cloete used his power to burrow over for a try that Hanrahan converted. Hanrahan then stretched the lead to seven points with a penalty before the Blues finally worked prop Corey Domachowski over for a try with the last move of the half. Evans converted and the first half ended all square at 13-13.
That still left the home side with an uphill task in the second half. Munster kept on running, grabbed three more tries to clinch their bonus point and had senior pro Hanrahan singing the praises of his younger team mates.
“We made 11 changes from the team that beat the Ospreys, but that’s the beauty of our squad – we trust in it,” said Hanrahan. “We are going to need all of the squad this season and the young boys who turned out were unbelievable.”
Evans put the hosts back in front seven minutes into the second half with his third penalty, but there was an emphatic response. Hanrahan put O’Byrne through a hole and once they were in the home 22 the visitors were clinical as they worked Mathewson over for a try that Hanrahan once again converted.
They picked up another try from wing Calvin Nash on their next incursion into the home 22 to open up a nine-point lead and give themselves 20 minutes to chase the bonus-point. It didn’t take long for it to come. Hanrahan broke out of his 22, linked with Mathewson and the scrum half stayed in support of Dan Goggin to take a return pass and grab his second try. Nick Williams grabbed a consolation try at the death.
Scorers for Cardiff Blues: Tries: C Domachowski, N Williams; Con: J Evans, J Tovey; Pens: J Evans 3.
Scorers for Munster: Try: A Mathewson 2, C Cloete, C Nash; Cons: JJ Hanrahan 2; Pens: JJ Hanrahan 3.
CARDIFF BLUES: M Morgan; J Harries, R Lee-Lo, G Smith (W Halaholo 50), A Summerhill; J Evans (J Tovey 71), L Williams (captain, L Jones 70); C Domachowski (B Thyer 59), K Dacey (K Myhill 41), S Andrews (K Assiratti 61), J Turnbull, R Thornton, S Lewis-Hughes (N Williams 59), O Robinson (S Davies 50), W Boyde (S Lewis-Hughes 77).
MUNSTER: S Daly; C Nash, S Arnold, D Goggin (T Bleyendaal 70), A Wootton (R Scannell 41); JJ Hanrahan, A Mathewson (N McCarthy 68); J Loughman, K O'Byrne (D Barron 75), K Knox (S Archer 52), F Wycherley, D O'Shea (J Holloway 58), J O'Donoghue (captain), C Cloete (C Oliver 59), A Botha
Replacement Unused: L O'Connor.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)