Munster welcomed back Lions Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander for the Guinness Pro14 encounter with Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park on Saturday and immediately got back to winning ways following their heavy defeat in Glasgow last weekend.
Before an official attendance of 13,558 the home side found themselves 3 points behind in the early stages when Blues’ out-half Jarrod Evans put the visitors ahead with a penalty from just outside the Munster 22.
In the opening half Munster lacked fluency with some moves and passes failing to come off, possibly due to players returning and reintegrating into the team.
Munster took 9 minutes to get themselves well inside the Blues half of the field, but soon through the effort of the returning Conor Murray, the home side went ahead with a try just under the posts, which Ian Keatley converted to give the hosts a 7-3 advantage.
Jarrod Evans kicked a penalty after 20 minutes to narrow the gap to just one point; before Blues number 6 Josh Turnbull put the visitors ahead with a try. Evans duly obliged with his conversion attempt to extend the Cardiff lead to 13-7.
The kickers exchanged penalties before half-time with Ian Keatley successful when the Blues were penalised for not releasing, thus narrowing the gap to three points. A long Jarrod Evans kick from the half way line restored Cardiff’s six point lead with 31 minutes played in the opening half, amazingly their last score of the entire game. Keatley scored another penalty with 4 minutes to the break to ensure Munster went in just 3 points behind the Welsh side; Munster 13 Cardiff Blues 16.
Munster seemed a different outfit from the beginning of the second half. Blues found themselves under pressure near their own line as the home side were awarded three penalties within six minutes of the restart. Opting for scrums, Munster pressure would eventually lead to the yellow carding of Cardiff’s Filise.
Front row John Ryan crossed over for Munster’s second try in the 51st minute which Keatley converted to put Erasmus’ side 20-16 ahead. JJ Hanrahan returned to the Munster team following his move from Northampton Saints in the English Premiership when replacing the ever energetic Andrew Conway on 53 minutes. The Currow, Co. Kerry native didn’t take long (2 minutes) to make an impression as he scored the first of two tries following a great run and offload from Rory Scannell; Keatley converted for a 27-16 lead.
A more fluid and settled home side were now in the driving seat and went in search of the bonus point, which Robin Copeland delivered on 67 minutes to score his 10th try for the province. Another successful Keatley kick at the posts put Munster in an unassailable 34-16 lead.
JJ Hanrahan, who looked eager to impress and was full of running during his spell on the field, his first game in the red of Munster since May 2015, touched down for his second five-pointer in the 71st minute having taken a beautiful line. Keatley missed the difficult conversion attempt but an impressive 11 point haul from the Munster kicker saw him named Man of the Match.
Worrying for Munster with away trips to Dublin and France in the next fortnight was Jaco Taute being taken off injured with what looked like a knee injury. The South African has become an integral part of the team and would be a big loss to the southern province if out for any length of time.
Final score Munster 39 Cardiff Blues 16.