Six penalties from Ian Keatley proved enough to hand Munster an 18-13 Pro12 victory over the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.
Six penalties from fly-half Ian Keatley proved enough to hand Munster an 18-13 Pro12 victory over the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.
Keatley's impressive goal-kicking helped Munster remain unbeaten, with four penalties from four attempts giving them a 12-3 lead at half-time.
The Blues had a number of senior players missing due to injury or World Cup commitments. The Blues therefore made seven changes from the side that performed so badly against Ulster last week.
Defending champions Munster went into the fixture a point clear at the top of the table after winning their three opening fixtures.
A relatively subdued home crowd welcomed the players onto the field. Ceri Sweeney missed two relatively easy penalty attempts in the first 10 minutes, with the Blues building solid pressure in attack as one set of possession lasted 23 phases.
Keatley kicked a penalty to give Munster an early lead after 4 minutes. Alex Cuthbert was denied a fantastically worked back-line try by an impressive last-ditch tackle by winger Denis Hurley, when the TMO Gareth Simmonds said the big winger's foot was in touch.
The TMO was called into action just two minutes later when the Blues put constant pressure on the visitors' line.
The Blues were to be denied for a second time. A scrum infringement gave Sweeney the opportunity to make amends for his two earlier penalty misses, and he took full advantage to level the scores at 3-3.
A powerful Munster scrum just inside the Blues half led to the referee giving a penalty against the home side. Keatley's neat penalty kick gave Munster the lead. In the absence of Wales' Gethin Jenkins the young tight-head Sam Hobbs was giving a good account of himself in the first half an hour.
Keatley's third penalty conversion looked ominous for the Blues, as the former Connacht fly-half looked to be continuing his fine form with the boot.
The Blues' ill-discipline once again gave Keatley an opportunity to extend Munster's lead, which he gratefully took to leave the visitors leading 12-3 at half-time.
Despite the Blues having a substantial amount of possession, the Munster defence was standing firm. Munster's decision to play with three 'full-backs' in defence gave Sweeney no space to kick into.
A smart off-load from Paul Tito gave Alex Cuthbert the opportunity to sprint in from 40 metres to score his second try of the season. Sweeney successfully slotted the conversion to make it 12-10.
Cuthbert's individual brilliance was soon forgotten as yet again the Blues were punished by Keatley's impressive boot to take the score to 15-10 with just over half an hour left in the game.
Casey Laulala's introduction seemed to give the Blues some much-needed impetus in the back-line. The New Zealand centre made some storming runs to give his side the necessary gain-line success. Hobbs was seen by referee to be infringing at the scrum, resulting in that man Keatley knocking over his sixth penalty of the night.
From a dominant Blues scrum Sweeney took the ball flat to the line. The fly-half delivered a good off-load to Cuthbert who was brought down inches from the line. From the resulting breakdown Munster were penalised for hands in the ruck. Sweeney was successful with his penalty kick taking the score to 18-13.
Keatley went from hero to villain as the fly-half was sin-binned with three minutes to go for being caught off-side at the ruck.
The Blues looked certain to take advantage of the extra man with a good back-line, but the move came to nothing as the referee deemed the ball to have gone forward. The Blues players looked devastated as it was also the last play of the game.
The Blues' inability to keep possession let them down as they had enough ball to produce some form of sustained attack.
The Munster side went on to win their fourth game of the competition to leave them top of the RaboDirect Pro12.
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Sweeney 2
Pens: Keatley 6
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Richard Mustoe, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Andries Pretorius, 7 Maama Molitika, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Deiniol Jones, 4 Paul Tito (C), 3 Scott Andrews, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Ryan Harford, 19 Xavier Rush, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Casey Laulala.
Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Lifiemi Mafi, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (capt), 5 Mick O'Driscoll, 4 Billy Holland, 3 Stephen Archer , 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 John Ryan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Niall Ronan, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Tom Gleeson.
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)