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Cardiff Blues 15-16 Munster

Cardiff Blues (12) 15
Pens: Halfpenny 4. Drop-goal: Parks

Munster (13) 16
Try: Coughlan. Con: O'Gara Pens: O'Gara 3

Xavier Rush finds his way blocked
Blues' Xavier Rush is blocked by Mick O'Driscoll and Damien Varley

Leaders Munster edged a compelling Magners League encounter at Cardiff City Stadium, denting the hosts' play-off hopes.

The Blues' defeat could play into their Welsh rivals the Scarlets' hands in the chase for a top-four place.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked four penalties and replacement fly-half Dan Parks a drop-goal to keep them in touch.

But a James Coughlan try, Ronan O'Gara's kicking and Paul O'Connell's leadership saw Munster home.

The Blues had prop John Yapp and his replacement Sam Hobbs sin-binned while Munster hooker Damien Varley joined the latter after a brawl.

Halfpenny opened the scoring with a penalty, then watched as Ronan O'Gara missed his first shot at goal.

But Munster were soon in the lead, aided by some aimless upfield kicking that blighted the hosts' efforts throughout.

Keith Earls made the most of a lack of chasers among the Blues ranks to drift outside Sweeney before finding Coughlan on his shoulder.

The number eight's charge proved unstoppable and O'Gara made amends with the conversion.

Young laments Blues' defeat

Blues prop Yapp earned 10 minutes in the sin-bin when he punched Mick O'Driscoll at a ruck.

The act earned the Wales prop an immediate rebuke from boss Dai Young who told Scrum V Yapp's punch amounted to "stupidity".

O'Gara punished the offence with a penalty before he and Halfpenny traded penalties to leave Munster 13-6 ahead with 25 minutes gone.

Yapp did not return when his 10 minutes was up, instead remaining on the sidelines due to a calf strain.

Sam Hobbs replaced him, but soon followed Yapp to the sin-bin, but this time in the company of Munster hooker Damien Varley following an ugly punch-up that could have seen both earn red.

This time Halfpenny stepped up to punish Varley's role in the incident and then put his side one-point down at the break with his fourth successful shot at goal.

O'Gara sent a penalty wide nine minutes after the break and following the introduction of Parks for Ceri Sweeney the Scottish fly-half dropped the goal that put the Blues ahead.

The tit-for-tat scoring continued in Munster's favour with O'Gara kicking another penalty.

But the visitors had less to feel comfortable about in the second half as the Blues increased their tempo and took he game to the visitors instead of standing off.

Andries Pretorius charged down an O'Gara clearance to emphasise the point, but at the other end the Irish veteran kicked a penalty to put his side back into the lead.

However, O'Gara had also missed his first shot at goal in each half and in the 67th and 69th minutes sent two more wide to boost the Blues' hopes.

Michael Paterson gave replacement Jamie Roberts a half-chance on the left, but it came to nothing as Parks' drop-goal attempt fell short.

O'Gara's long clearance kick took Munster deep into the Blues' 22 after Paterson's offload fell to the visitors instead of finding a team-mate.

And even if O'Gara's goal-kicking was a rare let-down, his positional play was out of the top drawer as the game wore on and he ended the Blues' challenge by sending the ball into the stand to signal victory.

Cardiff Blues: Czekaj; Mustoe, Laulala, Hewitt, Halfpenny; Sweeney, L Williams; Yapp, R Williams, Andrews, Paterson, Tito (capt), Pretorius, M Williams, Rush.
Replacements: Slater for Mustoe (74), Roberts for Hewitt (51), Parks for Sweeney (51), Molitika for Rush (65), Hobbs for Pretorius (21), B Davies for Tito (47), Trevett for Andrews (37), Dacey for R Williams (47).

Munster: Jones; Howlett, J Murphy, Mafi, Earls; O'Gara, Murray; du Preez, Varley, Buckley, O'Driscoll, O'Connell, Leamy, Ronan, Coughlan.
Replacements: Tuitupou for Jones (68), Stringer for Murray (57), O'Mahoney for Ronan (69), D Ryan for O'Driscoll (69), Archer for Buckley (11), Sherry for Varley (62), Horan for du Preez (62).

Not Used: Cusack.

Att: 11,112

Ref: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

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see also
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
RaboDirect Pro12
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
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Anglo-Welsh Cup
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