Munster fail to make any ground on top four after Cardiff loss

Anthony Foley’s side remain four points behind Ulster in fifth spot

Cardiff Blues 37 Munster 28

Munster lost ground on provincial rivals Ulster in the chase for a top four spot in the Guinness Pro12 with a 37-28 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park.

Anthony Foley's men seized control of the contest when Darren Sweetnam crossed inside the first 10 minutes.

But the Blues turned on the style to score four tries to claim a bonus point through Macauley Cook, Matthew Rees, Garyn Smith and Rhys Patchell.


Mike Sherry’s second-half score gave the Munstermen hope before Jack O’Donoghue’s consolation, but they remain four points behind Ulster in the table.

Munster were leading within three minutes in the Welsh capital.

The Blues were pinned back in their own half after some neat handling from the Munster tight five, before Ellis Jenkins ended the move with a shoulder charge at a ruck.

Outhalf Ian Keatley made no mistake with the penalty from in front of the posts to give his side a 3-0 lead.

And it got even better inside the first 10 minutes when wing Sweetnam dived over at the corner.

Centre Rory Scannell burst through the defensive line before the ball was worked wide to his centre colleague Francis Saili.

The twice capped All Black showed his international class by sending a perfectly weighted pass to fix the defence, and Sweetnam touched down in at the corner.

The Blues came fighting back with a Patchell penalty, but then Munster received a huge let-off on 24 minutes.

Patchell darted through and looked to have scored, but instead offloaded to fullback Dan Fish, who dropped the ball over the line.

Danny Wilson’s men went on to show the power of their pack by shunting the Munster scrum into submission, winning a pair of penalties.

But their pressure came to no avail as the visitors cleared their lines.

Just when Munster looked comfortable again, barnstorming number eight Josh Navidi made the breakthrough.

He splintered the first line of defence with a powerful break, before feeding lock Cook, who waltzed over. Patchell landed the conversion to put the Blues 10-8 ahead.

Munster looked to shunt their way over after sending a penalty into the corner in the dying moments of the first half, but the move ended with an interception from home wing Blaine Scully, and the Blues headed in to the changing rooms with a two-point lead.

And it was the home side who maintained their ascendancy after the interval.

Patchell’s second penalty of the evening extended the lead to 13-8, but was soon cancelled out with a long-range effort from Keatley.

However, momentum swung back the way of the capital region, who had begun to turn the screw up front with a powerful maul to earn a penalty, which was sent to the corner.

Former Wales and Lions hooker Rees delivered an accurate throw, before he received the ball back to go over at the corner.

This ding-doing battle was turned on its head again as Munster mimicked the Blues with a driving lineout from a penalty.

Hooker Sherry eventually emerged from the bottom of a heap of players to claim the try, with Keatley’s conversion cutting the gap to two points.

But the Blues' nine-point advantage was restored less than two minutes later. Replacement prop Dave Kilcoyne returned the kick-off with vigour, but was stripped of the ball by Smith, who raced home.

Patchell maintained his perfect kicking record to make it 27-18.

And the dead-eye kicker got amongst the tries as he raced over at the corner and converted his own score, before Jarrod Evans denied the visitors a losing bonus.

CARDIFF BLUES: D Fish; A Summerhill, G Smith, R Lee-Lo, B Scully; R Patchell, L Williams; B Thyer, M Rees (capt), S Ma'afu; C Dolan , J Turnbull; M Cook, E Jenkins, J Navidi.

Replacements: T Filise for Ma'afu (40 mins), K Dacey for Rees (45 mins), J Evans for Scully (65 mins), M Vosawi for Dolan (69 mins), T Davies for Thyer (70 mins), L Williams (L Jones 75). Not used: L Reed, G Evans.

MUNSTER: A Conway; D Sweetnam, F Saili, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, J Ryan; D Foley, B Holland (capt); J O'Donoghue, D O'Callaghan, R Copeland.

Replacements: D Kilcoyne for Cronin, N Scannell for Sherry, J Coghlan for Copeland (all 53 mins), S Archer for J Ryan (59 mins), J Holland for Keatley (62 mins), C Sheridan for Williams (72 mins), D Johnston R Scannell, S McCarthy for Foley (both 77 mins).