Munster’s Magners League title defence is up and running following their 24-13 victory over a near full strength Cardiff Blues side in Thomond Park Stadium on Friday night.
In a performance that was far removed from what they had produced a week previously in Glasgow, Munster looked a little more comfortable than the final scoreline suggests.
They led 16-3 as half time approached but then conceded a soft try to Xavier Rush that Ben Blair converted to leave just six points separating the sides at the break.
Then just two minutes after the restart Blair landed another penalty but Munster retained their composure, Jeremy Manning landing a fifth successful effort and then Denis Leamy sealing the outcome with a try in the 63rd minute.
“There was a lot more urgency and accuracy about us tonight.” captain Mick O’Driscoll said afterwards.
“There were questions asked about us after last week’s performance. We asked questions of ourselves but the work was put in and I think that showed this evening. It wasn’t perfect by any means. Still a lot of penalties given away and that’s something we have to address. But we’ll take a lot from this game. Enjoy the win but knows there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Coach Tony McGahan expressing his satisfaction said, “Yes that was much better. There was a lot more intensity this time. Our set piece – scrums and lineouts – were better. Our kicking was a lot more accurate and our kick/chase had the urgency it lacked last week. These were areas we had worked hard on, had spoken about and we saw that results this evening.
Manning kicked Munster into the lead with a penalty in the 21st minute after what had been fairly lack-lustre exchanges in the opening quarter.
Blair leveled almost immediately but Manning restored Munster’s advantage before Marcus Horan drove over form five metres after Leamy had made the initial surge, Manning converted but Munster then conceded that late score to take the gloss what been an impressive second quarter.
Blair cut it to a three point game in the 42nd minute but Mick O’Driscoll galvanised his side and with Niall Ronan, Leamy and Alan Quinlan getting through a mountain of work, Felix Jones and Denis Hurley rock-solid at the back, they stifled the attempted Blues come back.
Manning was on the mark again in the 47th minute and in the 63rd Leamy stretched out backwards to get an overhead touch don to make things safe.
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, B Murphy, L Mafi, D Hurley; J Manning, P Stringer (T Morland 55 min); M Horan, D Fogarty (D Varley 52 min), J Hayes (T Buckley ht); M O’Driscoll (capt), D Ryan (B Holland 70 min); A Quinlan (T O’Donnell 74 min), N Ronan, D Leamy.
Cardiff Blues: B Blair; L Halfpenny, G Thomas, D Hewitt, C Czekaj; C Sweeney, G Cooper; J Yapp, R Thomas, T Filise, D Jones, P Tito, M Molitika, R Sowden-Taylor, X Rush. Replacements: G Powell, G Williams, S Morgan, A Powell, R Rees, S Nortin-Knight, D James.
Referee : P Allan (SRU).