Cardiff Blues 13 - Munster 23: This was Munster at their resolute best as they hit Cardiff Blues with a late sucker punch in the Welsh capital.
As they had done against the Ospreys in Swansea last month, Rassie Erasmus’ side produced a last-gasp show to seal victory and if aspects of their performance could have been criticised, this result showed once again that you can’t fault the character of the men in red.
Rory Scannell’s drop goal and his conversion of a Conor Oliver try meant Munster scored 10 points in the final four minutes as they overturned a 13-13 scoreline to emerge with the win. It was the perfect way to bounce back from the surprising defeat to Scarlets on home turf last weekend.
“Home losses take belief away and away wins give you it, so in that regard this was a good result,” said Munster director of rugby Erasmus.
“It was not a good performance. It was actually a dreadful performance because of the weather, but it was gutsy. Relieved is the word to describe it.
“It was a see-saw game and with the conditions it could have gone either way.
“I was nervous all the time, even when we were 10 points ahead late on and we had a kick charged down. It was probably not one of our best performances, but emotionally and belief-wise it was a great display. I’m really happy with the win.”
Munster’s defeat of the Blues leaves them third in the Guinness PRO12 table and while their latest success was a team effort, Scannell rightly took individual plaudits.
The 23-year-old stepped inside from centre to replace the injured Ian Keatley in the first half, deputising at out-half in impressive fashion.
His nerveless drop goal was the seal on a top-class display which gave Erasmus cause for a joke.
“The most important thing was that Rory tried the drop goal,” the South African said.
“He’s put in two this year with one against Ulster as well, but we might start practising those because I didn’t think the flight on that ball was too great!”
Playing against the elements in the first half, Scannell had kicked one penalty to two from Cardiff’s Steve Shinger. In the second period Aled Summerhill and Francis Saili – who had replaced Keatley – exchanged converted scores before Scannell’s penalty tied the game at 13-13.
It looked at that stage as if the two teams would share the spoils, but Munster got their rewards for dominating the final quarter.
Scannell’s kicking game kept the Blues locked in their 22 and unable to escape, Danny Wilson’s men finally cracked in defence.
First Scannell stepped back into the pocket to drop a goal and then replacement Oliver darted over from close to a ruck.
It meant the game followed a similar pattern to Munster’s win over the Ospreys when Dave Kilcoyne came up with the late try that day.
Erasmus’ men now have the luxury of a week off before facing Zebre a week on Saturday. Travelling to Italy should pose few problems for Munster, who will assess their walking wounded in the next few days. Keatley is the main concern, but Erasmus is hopeful his out-half’s injury isn’t too serious.
Leinster’s thrashing of Scarlets means they head the Pro12 pile, with Munster a point adrift of second-placed Ospreys. A domestic and European double remains a possibility, with the Champions Cup quarter-final with Toulouse at Thomond Park looming on the horizon at the start of next month.
The meeting with the French giants can wait for now, but Erasmus knows the season is entering its pivotal stage.
“The next seven or eight weeks are going to be nerve wracking,” he said. “All the top teams in the league are playing each other and at this stage of the season we’re trying to stay in both competitions. By doing that we have to experiment and rotate with a couple of younger guys. While we’re doing that, we’ll win some games and lose others.”
Scorers for Cardif Blues:
Try: Summerhill 48; Con: Shingler 49; Pens: Shingler 22, 34.
Scorers for Munster:
Tries: Saili 52, Oliver 77; Cons: Scannell 53, 78; Pens: Scannell 26, 67; Drop goal: Scannell 76.
Morgan (R Williams 76); Summerhill, Halaholo (Smith 56), Shingler, James ; Anscombe, L Williams (capt); Domachowski (Thomas 76), Rees (Myhill 67), Peikrishvili (Filise 71), Earle, Hoeata, Cook, Navidi, N Williams (Bennett 71)
Replacements not used:
Conway; Sweetnam, Taute, Scannell, O’Mahony; Keatley (Saili 20, (Goggin 78), Williams; Kilcoyne, Marshall (O’Byrne 67), Archer, O’Shea (Oliver 46), Holland (capt), O’Callaghan, O’Donnell, Copeland (Wycherley 67)
Replacements not used:
McCabe, Scott, Griesel
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