Cardiff Blues 13
RORY SCANNELL STEPPED into the outside half role for three quarters of the game and came good in the end to steer Munster to a much needed win in the battle for a play-off place in the Guinness PRO12.
The Blues had beaten the southern province in Cork, 24-23, earlier in the season and led for long periods at a rain-soaked and wind-blown Arms Park. But having fallen 10 pints behind at the start of the second half, Munster maintained the pressure and ultimately won by 10.
And it was Scannell who broke the deadlock with his 75th minute drop-goal to edge Munster ahead 16-13, before Conor Oliver added a late try to put a shine on another gritty performance from Rassie Erasmus’ men.
Munster old boy Nick Williams made his considerable presence felt right from the kick-off with a huge charge into the visiting pack as they received the ball and he threw his weight around to great effect in the opening 40 minutes.
Source: Camersport/Dan Minto/INPHO
He put in some huge hits and one drive into a ruck five minutes from the break so upset Munster hooker Rhys Marshall that he threw the ball at Williams and conceded a penalty for his petulance. Up stepped Steve Shingler and over went his second penalty to give the home side a 6-3 lead.
But far from being upset at being behind at the interval, Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus would have been pleased with the result given the strong breeze into which his team were playing. Wales wing Tom James made one clean break for the Blues, before being smashed on the Munster 22, and Duncan Williams pulled off an immense, try saving tackle on opposite number Lloyd Williams 10 metres out.
The difficult conditions were highlighted by the fact Ian Keatley and Shingler missed with their first kicks at goal. Keatley then left proceedings with an injury midway through the first half and Francis Sali came on at centre and Rory Scannell moved into the No 10 role.
Scannell kicked a 26th minute penalty, but missed what looked like a sitter three minutes from the interval. He then pushed his third attempt wide of the left hand upright from 42 metres at the start of the second half after Nick Williams had been penalised at the break down.
The Blues then lot centre Willis Halaholo six minutes into the second half for a high tackle on Andrew Conway on the home 22. But two huge errors from the visitors cost them dearly as Dave Kilcoyne conceded a penalty at a ruck a few metres from the home line and then a Scannell midfield pass on half-way was intercepted by Aled Summerhill.
The wing raced to the posts and Shingler added he penalty to extend the Blues’ lead to 10 points. That advantage was short-lived, though, as Saili picked up at the base of a ruck 30 metres out and found Nick Williams and Matthew Rees sleeping on guard.
The Muster centre then raced up to home full back Matthew Morgan, stepped inside him and scored at the posts for Scannell to add the extras and make it a three point game once again. Conway then had a valiant attempt at latching onto a Saili kick into the Blues in-goal area and bagging a try ruled out by the TMO, but all the pressure was coming from the visitors.
It took until the 68th minute for Munster get on level terms when Scannell hit the mark again with a 35 metre penalty and from there on it was just a case of turning the screw and waiting for another home error.
Scannell’s drop goal broke the deadlock and then a crunching tackle from Jaco Taute forced the Boues to turn over the ball on their 22 and Oliver raced clear to the posts for the try that enabled Munster to make a clean sweep of the PRO12 games in Wales this season and an eighth on the road.