Hanrahan secures bonus for Munster on return
Munster cut loose in second half against Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park
Andrew Conway is tackled by Willis Halaholo. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Munster 39 Cardiff Blues 16
Munster mined 14 points from a second half sin-binning as they put Cardiff Blues away 39-16 at Thomond Park. John Ryan and JJ Hanrahan both touched while Cardiff prop Taufa’ao Filise was in the bin, before Hanrahan sealed the province’s bonus point and Robin Copeland also scored against his former club.
Cardiff had put the news of head coach Danny Wilson’s end-of-season departure behind them to lead 16-13 at half-time, young fly-half Jarrod Evans firing over four place-kicks - including the conversion of Josh Turnbull’s 23rd-minute try.
However, Munster went up a couple of gears after the break to put last week’s disappointing result in Glasgow behind them. They dominated the scrum and man-of-the-match Ian Keatley, who had converted Conor Murray’s first half try, finished with 14 points thanks to six successes out of seven.
The 21-year-old Evans was successful with a seventh-minute penalty to punish a Darren Sweetnam offside. However, a second scrum penalty had Munster, who welcomed back their three Lions, sensing blood.
An overthrown lineout thwarted the province initially, but a bulldozing carry from Jaco Taute got their attack firing, CJ Stander and Rory Scannell carrying up close before Murray reached out for the base of the right post. Keatley converted for 7-3.
Jack Roberts’ debut for the Blues lasted only 14 minutes, while his opposite number Taute also left the field injured a few minutes later. Nick Williams locked onto two successive breakdown balls to win penalties, the second one thumped through the posts by Evans from just outside Munster’s 10-metre line.
Cardiff retook the lead with a Willis Halaholo-inspired try, his bouncing pass seeing Tom James threaten on the left before the Kiwi centre then connected with Steve Shingler to send Turnbull over, wide on the right. Evans added a sweetly-struck conversion for a 13-7 buffer.
Olly Robinson was unfairly pinged at the breakdown, allowing Keatley to make it a three-point game. Yet, the surefooted Evans swiftly replied from halfway. A Keatley penalty, following an Andrew Conway surge, was Munster’s only score from a bout of late pressure before the half-time whistle, the province lacking patience with the try-line in sight.
The scrum was the centrepiece of the third quarter, the Blues leaking four set piece penalties close to their own line. Tighthead Filise was responsible for two of them and he was promptly carded. The expected Munster try did not come, replacement Keiron Assiratti winning Cardiff a free-kick, but the hosts hammered back with seven speedy phases, the end-product being Ryan’s well-taken 51st-minute score.
Replacement Hanrahan then marked his return in Munster red after two years in Northampton, trailing an outstanding midfield break from Scannell to score close to the posts.
Blues half-backs Evans and Tomos Williams tried to initiate a response with the visitors now 27-16 in arrears. Munster had the game well within their grasp, though, with Alex Wootton almost teeing up their fifth try before Copeland plunged over in the 67th minute, rewarding Chris Farrell’s initial run and Murray’s clever cut down the blindside.
Excellent passing from Murray and Keatley invited Hanrahan to scamper away from Blaine Scully and complete his brace in the left corner. After Keatley’s only missed kick, Cardiff went in search of a consolation try but Scully and James were both stopped short of the whitewash.