PA Sport Staff
Munster guaranteed a play-off berth in the United Rugby Championship and boosted their hopes of a home quarter-final thanks to a 42-21 bonus-point win over Cardiff at Musgrave Park.
Cardiff silenced the Cork crowd with early tries from Seb Davies and Rey Lee-Lo, but Munster hit back before the interval with a brace from Mike Haley and Thomas Ahern’s score on the stroke of half-time.
Leading 27-14 at the break with Ben Healy having landing five kicks, the hosts leaked an opportunist try to Cardiff scrum-half Lloyd Williams in the 55th minute as the visitors looked to get back into the match.
HALF-TIME: Munster 27-14 Cardiff
A thrilling 40 minutes at Musgrave Park!
Mike Haley scored 2 tries for Munster, Thomas Ahern got the 3rd & Ben Healy kicked 12 points.
Big second half coming up.#MUNvCAR #SUAF 🔴
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) April 29, 2022
However, the Welsh side could not avoid their fourth straight URC defeat as livewire replacement Craig Casey touched down twice to seal a five-try Munster triumph.
This was a rip-roaring encounter right from the start, Hallam Amos getting on the outside of Conor Murray to send lock Davies over inside two minutes.
Jarrod Evans converted and also added the extras to Lee-Lo’s effort, which came from another Amos break. Evans tidied up a loose pass and flung the ball wide for the Samoan centre to score.
In between, Munster full-back Haley flew in behind the posts after nice hands from Rory Scannell and Jack O’Donoghue.
A Healy converted that score and a penalty from the fly-half closed the gap to 14-10, but Simon Zebo was denied on two occasions as Cardiff, who lost Rory Thornton to a shoulder injury, stood firm.
However, Haley sidestepped through in the 25th minute to score from the edge of the Cardiff 22 and Healy’s conversion made it 17-14.
Amos’ night – and perhaps his career as he is retiring once this season is over – was cruelly ended by a hamstring injury after half-an-hour before a Healy penalty made it a six-point game.
Munster snuck in another try just before the break, young lock Ahern driving over for Healy to convert.
A stop-start third quarter was scoreless until Cardiff scrum-half Williams jinked past John Ryan off a ruck, going in under the posts after James Botham’s initial break.
Munster lifted the tempo in response, Casey the beneficiary of an O’Donoghue offload to bag the bonus point. Fellow replacement Joey Carbery converted to further extend the home side’s lead.
Munster got over the line again with eight minutes remaining, Casey taking a quick tap to duck under Ley-Lo’s tackle and cross from five metres out.