Munster knocked Cardiff Blues off the top of Guinness PRO14 Conference B with a thoroughly entertaining 38-27 bonus point win at Thomond Park. The competition’s first-ever Monday night match outside of the festive period quickly caught fire thanks to early tries from Rey Lee-Lo and Gavin Coombes.
N08 Coombes completed his brace to help Munster lead 17-13 at the break, with Ben Healy and Jarrod Evans landing three kicks each. There were five tries in 16 swashbuckling minutes either side of the hour mark, as scores from Kevin O’Byrne, Jack O’Donoghue and replacement JJ Hanrahan kept an offload-seeking Munster in front.
Aled Summerhill and Willis Halaholo sandwiched in two high-quality touchdowns for Cardiff, who fell short of claiming their own bonus point. Lloyd Williams’ late call-up to the Wales squad saw Kristian Dacey captain the Blues.
It took only a minute for centre Lee-Lo to burst in behind the posts following a slick set-up by Halaholo and Evans, who quickly converted. Halaholo’s subsequent sin-binning for a foot trip on Dan Goggin invited Munster forward, and Coombes burrowed over for the levelling seven-pointer.
James Botham’s defence-splitting break set up a 16th-minute Evans penalty before Munster turned down a simple three points in response. After John Hodnett was held up twice, Coombes’ 26th-minute grounding was spotted by Italian referee Andrea Piardi.
It was a thriller from the get-go but it’s the Red Army that remain unbeaten and top Conference B with the victory ?
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) October 26, 2020
Healy’s conversion was quickly followed by a second Evans penalty, but Healy was able to punish Botham’s high tackle on O’Byrne for a four-point half-time advantage. Openside Botham’s breakdown smarts got Cardiff out of early second-half trouble, with Munster unable to capitalise on some evasive running by their backs.
Although the post denied Healy from the tee, Cardiff’s well-organised defence was breached soon after. A penalty was tucked into the corner and hooker O’Byrne plunged over from the lineout drive with Healy converting.
The territory-starved Blues hit back within three minutes, a snappy break by fly-half Evans was finished by Summerhill with a deft sidestep around Mike Haley. Evans also converted from the right for 24-20.
However, Lee-Lo’s fumble of the restart allowed Munster to build for O’Donoghue’s bonus point effort, the player-of-the-match proving unstoppable from close range. Healy converted but again Cardiff struck back.
Munster went too high on Halaholo who had the power to crash over off another well-worked move from a lineout. But Munster’s eagerness to put the ball through the hands was rewarded with a superb 67th-minute match-winner.
Some sparkling build-up play, including some deft deliveries from Rhys Marshall and Damian De Allende, had Hanrahan looping around from the right wing to end the hopes of the tiring Blues.
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— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 27, 2020
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