Munster 54 Cardiff Blues 13
Once proud Cardiff let themselves down badly at Thomond Park on Saturday night, but that should not take anything away from another impressive bonus-point Munster performance that sees them comfortably clear in the Rabo Pro 12 League and with a massive level of confidence coursing through the squad.
After a reasonably competitive first-half which saw the Blues score arguably the best try of the game through Owen Williams — and just 19-13 behind — the trend of the game changed dramatically in the 60th as a yellow card for Cardiff substitute Patrick Palmer led to a penalty try for Munster; thereafter it was one-way traffic as the visitors more or less threw in the towel.
Simon Zebo, enjoying his first full outing since October, revelled in the going and scored one of the four subsequent tries. He showed several delightful touches while the South African winger Gerhard van den Heever, Andrew Conway and John Ryan also got in on the try-scoring act. Nobody, however, made a greater impression than JJ Hanrahan who looked the complete number ten while also helping himself to a personal total of 24 points comprised of four penalties and the conversion of all six tries. In all, he enjoyed a 100% record.
It made happy viewing for departing Munster coach Rob Penney, who made it clear he “would only talk about footy, tonight’s match, next week’s match, rugby in general”.
“(JJ) was terrific. As we say each week, when we praise one, we praise the other. Keats (Ian Keatley) came on and did a great job as well. The lads are having a ding-dong battle and it’s good for them. And Zebo? Also terrific. Given that he hasn’t had a lot of footy for the last 13 weeks, to get through eighty minutes was great for us. He had a bit of rust and he’s been able to blow a bit of that off.
Penney used all four props and both hookers with equal success and without BJ Botha involved at all. An area that not so long ago was a significant headache has been transformed into one of strength and massive potential.
“David Kilcoyne is a terrific player, James Cronin equally so and if the opportunity comes around to get a green one on their backs, they’ll do a great job”, said Penney.
Of Robin Copeland, who battled manfully for Cardiff, and who will be a Munster player next season, Penney remarked that “he made it challenging for us with ball in hand, the good thing was that a few boys on our team are potentially next year going to be vying for a spot with him. It’s great to have that depth and versatility.”
MUNSTER: S Zebo; G van den Heever, C Laulala, D Hurley, J Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, D Casey, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, D Foley, CJ Stander, B O’Mahony, J Coughlan (capt.)
Replacements: J Cronin and S Dougall for Kilcoyne and O’Mahony (both 60); C Sheridan and J Ryan for Williams and Archer (both 67); B Holland, A Conway, I Keatley for Foley, Hurley and Laulala (all 67); G Slattery for Casey (71).
CARDIFF BLUES: D Fish; H Robinson, O Williams, G Evans, C Czekai; G Davies, L Williams; S Hobbs capt, K Dacey, B Bourrust, C Dicomidis, F Paulo, M Cook, E Jenkins, R Copeland.
Replacements: Down for Dicomidis (half time); P Palmer for Bourrust (48); M Breeze for Dacey (59); S Humberstone for Davies (70); L Hamilton for Copeland (75).
Referee: G Vivarini (Italy).
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