Munster hold on as Cork's James Cronin signs off from Thomond Park

Cardiff Blues came close to victory late on but Reds recorded a vital victory
Munster hold on as Cork's James Cronin signs off from Thomond Park

Ballincollig's James Cronin is tackled by Cory Hill of Cardiff Blues during the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup match at Thomond Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Munster 31 Cardiff Blues 27 

A LATE try from Keynan Knox gave Munster a narrow victory over the Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park on Friday night to keep their Rainbow Cup hopes alive, but only just.

The Blues scored a wonderful try in the second minute, with out-half Jarrod Evans putting Welsh international centre Willis Halaholo through a huge gap in the Munster midfield, just inside his own half, and he was able to feed the supporting scrum-half Tomos Williams, who had enough gas to evade the Munster cover and score from 35m. If Munster thought they were in for an easy night they certainly got a rude awakening in that regard.

After losing at home to Connacht in the last round a reaction was expected from Johann van Graan’s side, but it was the visitors who completely dominated the opening quarter, and they grabbed a deserved 0-10 lead in the 18th minute when Stephen Archer was penalised in front his own posts for not rolling away, and Evans had the simple task of kicking the three points.

It was not looking good for the home side but a turnover at a Cardiff scrum led to them having a lineout near the Blues line, and the resultant maul was devastating, as Niall Scannell crashed over in the 29th minute to get Munster off the mark.

Munster very quickly engineered another lineout down in the right-hand corner and from the resultant play centre Damian de Allende brought Munster to within a yard of the tryline, and scrum-half Craig Casey was able to feed second-row Fineen Wycherley, who was able to run through Tomos Williams to crash over for the second try in the 33rd minute.

For all their brilliant play Cardiff simply had no answer to Munster’s maul, and from yet another maul Niall Scannell was over once more in the 37th minute for one of the easiest tries he has ever scored. In the space of eight minutes, Munster went from being in serious trouble to being in control, as they led 21-10 at the break.

The Blues weren’t giving up without a fight, however, and they scored another scintillating team try in the 45th minute to get themselves back into the tie. Evans fed his second-row Seb Davies, who released the supporting Hallam Amos, who fed the supporting Williams, running the Dupont line on his inside, for a superb score.

Joey Carbery settled Munster again with a routine penalty in the 50th minute, but a 54th-minute yellow card for Mike Haley meant that the game was far from safe at 24-17.

From the next play the game became loose, which suited the Blues, as Halaholo passed to his captain Josh Turnbull, who made a brilliant break and fed the supporting replacement no. 9 Lloyd Williams to score, and level the scores.

Cardiff then retook the lead in the 69th minute from another Evans penalty from 35m, and Munster had to dig themselves out of a hole.

To their credit, they came up with the perfect response, with replacement tight head Keynan Knox bustling over from close range in the 74th minute. The try was Munster’s fourth, for the bonus point, but more crucially it gave Munster the win.

Munster's Tommy O'Donnell leaves the field for his last appearance at Thomond Park. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Munster's Tommy O'Donnell leaves the field for his last appearance at Thomond Park. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Scorers for Munster: Carbery (1 pen, 4 cons), N. Scannell (2 tries) Wycherley and Knox (1 try each). 

Cardiff Blues: Evans (2 pens, 3 cons), T. Williams (2 tries), L. Williams (1 try).

MUNSTER: Haley; Conway, de Allende, R. Scannell, Daly; Carbery, Casey; Cronin, N. Scannell, Archer; Kleyn, Wycherley; O'Donoghue, O’Donnell, Stander (c).

Subs: O’Sullivan for O’Donnell (44), O’Mahony for O’Donoghue (51), Coombes for Kleyn (60), Loughman and Knox for Cronin and Archer (63), Crowley for Haley (65), Barron for N. Scannell (69), McCarthy for Casey (76).

CARDIFF BLUES: Amos; Harries, Halaholo, Thomas, Adams; Evans, T. Williams; Domachowski, Dacey, Lewis, Davies, Hill, Turnbull (c), Botham, Ratti.

Subs: Robinson for Ratti (40), L. Williams for T. Williams (51), Morgan for Amos (54), Belcher, Carré and Arhip for Domachowski, Dacey and Lewis (62), Thornton for Davies (75).

Referee: Brace (IRFU)

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