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Munster crank it up

Sat, 03 May 2014 18:45
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Munster kept the pressure on Glasgow Warriors in the hunt for a home Pro12 semifinal after running in seven tries against Edinburgh at Meggetland.

* In the other game on Saturday Connacht dominated the first half but still wound up on the losing side to a resilient Cardiff Blues team who extended their winning run to four games on the spin.

We look at Saturday's games!

Connacht 15-22 Cardiff Blues

Connacht dominated the first half but still wound up on the losing side to a resilient Cardiff Blues team who extended their winning run to four games on the spin.

It wasn't the send-off Dan Parks was looking for as he made his final appearance for Connacht in their last home game of the season, extending the home side's losing streak to four games.

Connacht made all the early running, although chances in the opening minutes were few and far between.

On ten minutes the home side were awarded a penalty just inside the halfway line and full-back Darragh Leader stepped to take aim. But his effort cannoned back of the right post and the scores remained level.

Cardiff were looking to spread the ball wide at every opportunity but Connacht's defence, led by the hard-tackling Matt Healy, kept them at bay.

On 21 minutes Connacht's early dominance finally told when fly-half Miah Nikora confidently dispatched a penalty through the posts for the home side.

From an attacking lineout Cardiff lost the ball and Connacht scrum-half Kieran Marmion was taken out in the air as he leapt to claim it.

Leader kicked to the corner as Connacht kept up the pressure, and from an attacking scrum Marmion sent a grubber kick through for the onrushing Matt Healy to touch down. Nikora's conversion on 26 minutes made it 10-0 to the home side, just reward for their early efforts.

Connacht almost had a second try when skipper John Muldoon took a quick free-kick only for his effort to be ruled out for a double movement.

Cardiff kicked their way upfield and camped in the Connacht 22, and won a penalty with two minutes to the interval.

The Blues won a penalty for hands in the ruck and No.10 Gareth Davies knocked over the three-pointer to send his side in trailing by seven at the break.

Connacht enjoyed the better start to the second half as Robbie Henshaw broke through the Cardiff defence to score an unconverted try and make it 15-3.

A huge round of applause rung round the stadium on 50 minutes when Dan Parks replaced Nikora in his final game for the club, but Cardiff were refusing to lie down and accept defeat.

They mauled their way to the Connacht line only for Muldoon to get his body under the ball and prevent the try.
But after another penalty near the Connacht line the referee pointed to the posts, awarding a penalty try to the visitors that Davies converted with ease.

And the comeback was complete on 58 minutes when replacement scrum-half Lewis Jones spotted a gap and burst through to level the scores, Davies' conversion putting Cardiff ahead for the first time.

Hopes of a Connacht fightback suffered a blow when the referee sent lock Aly Muldowney to the sin bin for another infringement at the set piece and the Blues took immediate advantage. The ball was spun wide to full-back Dan Fish who had the space to run in and dot down.

The conversion was missed but Cardiff led by seven points with ten minutes remaining and the hosts a man down. And the game was effectively over for Connacht with five minutes remaining when Eoin McKeon joined Muldowney on the sidelines forcing the home side to plough on with just 13 on the field.

And they were unable to find the breakthrough as Cardiff hung on for their first Pro12 victory in Ireland since January 2013, and fourth straight league victory in a row.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Tries:
Healy, Henshaw, Fish
Con: Nikora
Pen: Nikora

For Cardiff:
Tries:
Penalty Try, Jones
Cons: Davies
Pen: Davies

Yellow cards: Aly Muldowney (Connacht, 69), Eoin McKeon (Connacht, 75)

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon (captain), 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Ronan Loughney.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Gavin Duffy.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Ellis Jenkins, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees (captain), 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Chris Dicomidis, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Isaia Tuifua.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Edinburgh 12-55 Munster

Munster kept the pressure on Glasgow Warriors in the hunt for a home Pro12 play-off semifinal after running in seven tries against Edinburgh at Meggetland.

The hosts took the ascendancy early on through Carl Bezuidenhout and WP Nel, but Andrew Conway had responded before Denis Hurley danced over with half-time approaching.

And Munster turned the screw after the break, as Damien Varley, Duncan Williams, Tommy O'Donnell and two penalty tries saw them go some way to forgetting their European disappointment of last weekend.

JJ Hanrahan was also inch-perfect from the tee - collecting 16 points - as Munster sit just one point behind second-place Warriors with one regular season game remaining against Ulster next week.

Edinburgh poured on the early pressure and cracked into the Munster 22 after Cornell Du Preez took a quick tap penalty from an infringement at the scrum.

A slick exchange between Matt Scott and Jack Cuthbert then opened up space for the onrushing Bezuidenhout to power over for the score.

Bezuidenhout could not work a difficult conversion between the posts and in predictable fashion Munster came flying back at the hosts, who were pinged at the ruck to hand Hanrahan a penalty.

The fly-half put the three points on the board - and Rob Penney's troops barely needed another minute to score on the ground.

With CJ Stander and Conway on the overlap deep inside their own territory, Edinburgh suddenly found themselves undermanned out on the left.

And a desperate attempt from Cuthbert to bring Conway down, the Munster flyer zipped inside to dot down underneath the posts.

Hanrahan added the extras while Edinburgh were forced into an early replacement, as Sam Beard replaced the injured Tom Brown.

But the home side certainly had no intentions of buckling to play-off chasing Munster and reassumed control of the match midway through the first half.

A succession of carriers rumbled over the gain line after quick ruck ball from Greig Laidlaw, on his last-ever home appearance for Edinburgh.

Cuthbert was stopped millimetres short of the whitewash but WP Nel scrapped his way over to finish - and the try was upheld after consultation with the TMO.

Laidlaw knocked through the conversion but failed to hit the target with a penalty after Hanrahan had chipped in with another three points to hand Munster a slender lead.

And Munster landed a blow just before the half-time whistle when Stander reversed the ball to Denis Hurley, who concertinaed his way through the line to cap an excellent move.

Hanrahan again made no mistake with the conversion and the visitors remained on top after the restart, Simon Zebo testing the Edinburgh defence with a scything break.

After a spell of stout defending, the home side finally caved in as replacement Damien Varley crept over on the back of a rolling maul.

The visitors were still relentless, steaming into the opposition 22 after an Edinburgh knock-on and after a succession of dominant scrums, were rewarded with a penalty try.

Edinburgh did have a chance to hit back almost immediately but Nel knocked forward after Beard, Grant Gilchrist and Dimitri Basilaia sparked a surge to within five metres of the try-line.

But any hopes of a sensational comeback were put to bed when Duncan Williams crossed with 15 minutes to go after sharp offloading between the backs.

Laidlaw then made way for Grayson Hart to a standing ovation from the crowd, but there was more misery to endure.

Munster cranked up pressure in the scrum to earn their second penalty try of the evening - also resulting in a Gilchrist sin-bin - while sub O'Donnell rounded off a fine display in injury-time.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Tries:
Bezuidenhout, Nel
Con: Laidlaw

For Munster:
Tries:
Conway, Hurley, Varley, Penalty Try 2, Williams, O'Donnell
Cons: Hanrahan 5, Murray
Pens: Hanrahan 4

Yellow card: Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh, 73)

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Tom Brown, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Tomas Leonardi, 6 Mike Coman, 5 Dave Denton, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Al Dickinson
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Dimitri Basilaia, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Sam Beard

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Johne Murphy, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Andrew Conway, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Alan Cotter, 19 Dave Foley, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Luke O'Dea

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Ita)
Assistant referees: Peter Allan, Bob Nevins (both Scotland)
TMO: Ian Ramage (Scotland)

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