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Last Updated: Friday, 1 September 2006, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Blues 22-13 Munster
Blues flanker Scott Morgan produced a man-of-the-match show
Blues flanker Scott Morgan produced a man-of-the-match show

Blues 22 (9)
Tries: C Czekaj, S Morgan.
Pens: N Robinson 4.

Munster 13 (3)
Tries: T Ryan.
Cons: Manning.
Pens: J Manning 2.

Cardiff Blues laboured to victory over a depleted Munster at the Arms Park in the Magners League kick-off on Friday.

A scrappy first half saw the hosts lead 9-3 at the break, with Nick Robinson kicking three penalties to one from Munster fly-half Jeremy Manning.

A moment of brilliance from Blues centre Marc Stcherbina soon after the restart sent Chris Czekaj over.

Scott Morgan added a second try for the Welsh side, while Tim Ryan claimed a late consolation for Munster.

With Ireland resting their Test stars, Munster arrived with few of the players who did so much last season to be crowned champions of Europe.

No Paul O'Connell or Donncha O'Callaghan left Munster light in the scrum, while there was not the same control at half-back without Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara pulling the strings.

Robinson scored the first points of the new season with a penalty after 11 minutes, but Munster were soon back on level terms through Manning's boot.

As should have been expected, the Blues had the best of the exchanges against their below-strength visitors.

But sloppiness, early season rust if you prefer, prevented the Blues from making any real impression on the scoreboard.

You want the off-loads but don't want silly passes

Blues coach Dai Young

First lock Robert Sidoli was called back for crossing with the Munster posts at his mercy, then wing Czekaj fumbled a pass that would have sent him over in the corner.

Even the usually brilliant Xavier Rush caught the malaise, the New Zealander spilling another scoring pass after Robinson's kick-and-gather.

The Irish also wasted their one good opportunity of the half, as fine break-out work from Chris Wyatt - the former Llanelli Scarlets lock - and centre John Kelly was wasted.

Blues and Wales hooker Rhys Thomas almost claimed that elusive try only to be hauled down just short as half-time beckoned.

At least Robinson was able to give the home side some comfort at the break with two late kicks.

Manning eased Munster closer with a penalty soon after the restart, but Blues hit back immediately with a try.

The score was all down to the class of centre Stcherbina, whose show of the ball and a feint in, then step out sent Czekaj racing into the corner.

As is always the way when you wait for a rare thing, two come along at once and the Blues were soon over the whitewash again.

Keeping the ball alive, the Welsh engineered space on the left and blind-side flanker Morgan, the man-of-the-match, showed good pace to reach the flag first.

Robinson could not add either tricky conversion, but a 19-6 lead with 25 minutes remaining seemed likely to be enough.

When Munster had Tim Ryan and then Donnacha Ryan sin-binned in quick succession, as referee Rob Dixon finally punished persistent infringement, it seemed as though Blues would turn the screw.

Instead Rush opted for safety first as the skipper told Robinson to kick three more points, rather than chase two more tries for a bonus point.

That seemed a wise decision as Tim Ryan, back from his sin-binning, barged Martyn Williams aside to claim a late try for Munster, converted by Manning.

  • Blues coach Dai Young:
    "We got the result and in past seasons we failed to do that and put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

    "We were untidy, especially in their 22, and spilled a lot of ball when we should have respected it more.

    "But we've worked hard in training on getting the ball away in contact and it's a thin line: you want the off-loads but don't want silly passes."

    Blues: R. Williams; Czekaj, J. Robinson, Stcherbina, Luveitasau; N. Robinson, M. Phillips; Jenkins, Thomas, Filise, D. Jones, Sidoli, S. Morgan, M. Williams, Rush.
    Replacements: Shanklin for Stcherbina (65), Macleod for Luveitasau (71), Yapp for Jenkins (68), B. Davies for D. Jones (61), Sowden-Taylor for M. Williams (75). Not Used: G. Williams, W. Evans.

    Munster: C Cullen; S Payne, J Kelly, J Downey, I Dowling; J Manning, T O'Leary; D Hurley, F Sheahan, F Pucciariello, D Ryan, C Wyatt, R Noonan, J O'Sullivan, J Coughlan.
    Replacements: Lawlor for Downey (71), Hickey for Dowling (77), T. Ryan for Pucciariello (54), Cuttriss for Noonan (52). Not Used: Cronin, S. O'Connor, G. Hurley.

    Referee: Rob Dixon (RFU).

    Att: 8,687



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