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- Guinness PRO12
- 8th Feb 2014
- KO 19:15
- Att: 13,800
RaboDirect PRO12: Munster crush Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park
- Tight win sees Ulster second
- Scarlets win in Treviso
- Glasgow breeze past Connacht
- Leinster reverse lapse start
- Warriors on the charge
Munster recorded their biggest win of the season with a 54-13 demolition job of Cardiff Blues which moved them seven points clear at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12.
The six-try victory came in the wake of Munster head coach Rob Penney announcing his decision to leave the Irish province at the end of the current campaign, and on the same day that Ireland beat Wales in the Six Nations.
It proved to be no distraction for his players as they carved open Cardiff in the second half, scoring three tries while Blues replacement prop Patrick Palmer was in the sin bin.
The Welsh region were only 19-13 behind at the break but that run of tries - Simon Zebo and Gerhard van den Heever added to a penalty try - put the hosts in full control.
With their bonus point secured, Munster added some late gloss as Andrew Conway and CJ Stander both went over, with out-half JJ Hanrahan brilliantly landing 10 kicks from as many attempts for a 24-point tally.
Despite the difficult wet conditions, Munster made a bright start with Thomond Park debutant Van den Heever threatening from a Hanrahan cross-field kick.
Hanrahan and Gareth Davies swapped penalties before direct running from captain and man-of-the-match James Coughlan took him close to the try-line, and Dave Kilcoyne plunged over from the ensuing ruck.
Hanrahan converted but the Blues answered back within three minutes, Harry Robinson countering from a loose kick and breaking free on the right wing to send centre Owen Williams over in the corner. Davies swung over a cracking conversion kick to bring the visitors level at 10-all.
Led the assault
Former Cardiff centre Casey Laulala and Johne Murphy led an assault down the right wing as Munster got back on course, with successive penalties following from Hanrahan's right boot.
The Blues continued to be economical without really threatening, picking up a penalty on the half hour which Davies slotted for 16-13.
However, the gap was out to six points after Hanrahan punished Cardiff skipper Sam Hobbs for not rolling away on the stroke of half-time.
The second half was rather listless until Munster put pressure on in the scrum and a series of indiscretions saw Palmer yellow-carded by referee Giuseppe Vivarini.
The resulting 60th-minute scrum, which included replacement Thomas Davies, was also dropped and Munster were awarded their penalty try which Hanrahan converted.
Full-back Zebo - keen to force his way back into the Ireland squad - then celebrated his first start since October with a well-taken try, following a final pass from Coughlan and a barnstorming run in the build-up from prop James Cronin.
Hanrahan booted the ball wide for South African Van den Heever to run in from the right for the bonus-point score, and the half-century was in sight after replacement Conway dribbled through and dived for try number five.
Television match official Seamus Flannery confirmed the grounding and he was also involved in the awarding of flanker Stander's injury-time try, a powerful drive and stretch for the line.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Sunday 28th September|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton Treviso|
|Saturday 27th September|
|Munster 14 - 19 Ospreys|
|Zebre 13 - 6 Ulster|
|Friday 26th September|
|Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff Blues|
|Glasgow 39 - 21 Connacht|
|Edinburgh 20 - 20 Scarlets|
|Sunday 21st September|
|Ospreys 62 - 13 Edinburgh|
|Saturday 20th September|
|Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton Treviso|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 Glasgow|
|Friday 19th September|
|Connacht 10 - 9 Leinster|
|Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 Ulster|
|Munster 31 - 5 Zebre|
|Sunday 14th September|
|Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 Glasgow|
|Saturday 13th September|
|Leinster 42 - 12 Scarlets|
|Friday 12th September|
|Ulster 33 - 13 Zebre|
|Edinburgh 13 - 14 Connacht|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys|
|Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 Munster|
|Sunday 7th September|
|Zebre 26 - 41 Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 6th September|
|Glasgow 22 - 20 Leinster|
|Connacht 16 - 11 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Scarlets 32 - 32 Ulster|
|Friday 5th September|
|Munster 13 - 14 Edinburgh|
|Ospreys 44 - 13 Benetton Treviso|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com