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Munster's great escape fires them to victory

By John Fallon

On one side of the passageway which separates the Millennium Stadium from the Arms Park, hundreds of powerful bulbs were shining on Saturday, trying to persuade the grass to grow on the pitch where Munster have enjoyed their two greatest days in the Heineken Cup.

On the other side, on the plastic pitch in the Arms Park, the latest crop of Munster players were making sure the grass was not growing under their feet as they produced the sort escape act that seems to be just part of their DNA.

Cardiff Blues, with just one league win this season despite several promising showings, enjoyed the bulk of the possession and chances but lacked the cutting edge to transfer all of that into a match-winning formula.

Munster somehow managed to keep their noses in front for over an hour despite being under the cosh.

There were two reasons why they managed to stay in the game: the first was an excellent defence, with the likes of player of the season so far CJ Stander, ex-Cardiff back-rower Robin Copeland, debutant centre Rory Scannell and old dogs for the hard road like Donncha O'Callaghan, BJ Botha and Billy Holland, superb.

And then there was JJ Hanrahan, getting a chance at out-half; while he probably needs more game-time there to step up a notch, his flawless kicking got Munster over the line.

Another former Rockwell College lad Paddy Butler may have scored the winning the try but it was Hanrahan's seven from seven, from different angles and distances in windy conditions, which was the cornerstone of this fifth win in a row in all competitions.

Man of the match Manoa Vosawai looked set to point Cardiff towards victory when he crossed off the base of a scrum on 62 minutes but after Hanrahan restored parity and then Gareth Davies put the Blues in front with a penalty, Munster strung eight phases together and Butler dashed over with three minutes left. Johnny Holland made a late snatch job all the more unlikely when he added the tricky conversion.

Six kicks from Hanrahan had Munster 18-14 in front at the break after Argentinian wing Lucas Amorosino got the opening try, but Munster struck a huge psychological blow when they defended and turned over four Cardiff scrums five metres out early in the second half.

Meanwhile the injury blows keep coming for Leinster coach Matt O'Connor as debutant Ben Te'o became the latest player to join the rapidly growing list of causalities.

Te'o was forced off after just 20 minutes of his debut on Friday night and the province have since confirmed that the New Zealand rugby league import successfully underwent an operation on a fractured forearm on Saturday morning.

The injury is expected to rule Te'o out for the next six weeks.

The incident occurred in a seemingly innocuous tackle.

O'Connor was already without the likes of Cian Healy, Sean O'Brien and Marty Moore.

Leinster's other marquee signing Kane Douglas was also helped off in the first half of their bonus point victory over Edinburgh with a head injury.

The Australian second-row "will be assessed as part of the return to play protocols".

Belfast Telegraph


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