JJ marks Mun­ster re­turn with two tries in win over Cardiff

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - CIAN TRACEY

Mun­ster 39 Cardiff Blues 16

MUN­STER got back to win­ning ways against a Cardiff Blues side who threw in the towel de­spite lead­ing at half-time, but Rassie Eras­mus has press­ing con­cerns ahead of the meet­ing with Le­in­ster next week­end.

Chief amongst those headaches will be the fit­ness of Jaco Taute. The South African centre was car­ried off on a stretcher after 19 min­utes, and Eras­mus ad­mit­ted that the in­jury looked “se­ri­ous”. Taute left the sta­dium in a brace amid fears that he has dam­aged knee lig­a­ments. He will un­dergo a scan to­day to determine the ex­tent of the dam­age.

Keith Earls should re­turn for the Aviva show­down but Si­mon Zebo and Jean Kleyn are rated as 50-50.

The re­turn­ing Li­ons trio of Peter O’Ma­hony, CJ Stander and Conor Mur­ray helped steady the ship dur­ing a stut­ter­ing first-half per­for­mance, with the lat­ter scor­ing the first of Mun­ster’s five tries.

JJ Han­ra­han marked his sec­ond de­but for the club with two sec­ond-half tries after com­ing on as a re­place­ment, much to the de­light of the Thomond Park crowd.

Spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing who Eras­mus’s suc­ces­sor will be has been rife all week and the South African ad­mit­ted that he had be­lieved David Wes­sels was the man com­ing in.

Instead, Wes­sels turned down Mun­ster in favour of the Mel­bourne Rebels. Jo­hann van Graan has emerged as the new favourite, yet Eras­mus is un­con­vinced that the cur­rent Spring­boks as­sis­tant is on his way to Lim­er­ick.

“I know it’s down to one guy, I also thought it was Dave Wes­sels — at one stage, it was like a cer­tain thing,” Eras­mus said. “Now ev­ery­one seems pretty sure it’s Jo­hann van Graan, but I’m not so sure it’s Jo­hann van Graan. I’m not sure if the Spring­boks will let him go be­cause he’s a re­ally bril­liant coach. I re­ally don’t know.

“I have got things planned here. If it takes two, three, four or five months, I’ ll be here. David (Nu­ci­fora) and Gar­rett (Fitzger­ald) are busy with that for the last four months. I know David said they are down to one per­son, I can’t tell you who that is. I was just as sur­prised as the rest of the peo­ple that it wasn’t Dave Wes­sels.”

Cardiff Blues had lost on all seven of their pre­vi­ous vis­its to Thomond Park, but lead­ing 16-13 at the break, they had a great chance to end that mis­er­able record.

Instead, the bonus-point win moves Mun­ster back into sec­ond in Con­fer­ence A but they had to mount a sec­ond-half comeback to cut the gap on table-top­pers Glas­gow War­riors.

Man of the match Ian Keat­ley kicked 14 points in an as­sured all-round dis­play, and given ri­val out-half Tyler Bley- en­daal’s strug­gles from the tee in re­cent weeks, Eras­mus has a big de­ci­sion to make ahead of the trip to Dublin.

“We’ve got op­tions at 10, def­i­nitely,” Mun­ster’s di­rec­tor of rugby said. “Ian Keat­ley played re­ally well, con­trolled the game well. We know what Tyler can do. He didn’t cope with his place-kick­ing a lit­tle bit, it dipped in the last two games, but it’s a mat­ter of time be­fore that comes right.

“JJ as well, he also did re­ally well. I know he played from 15 but he slot­ted into the fly-half role left and right of the rucks, which was good. That’s a nice chal­lenge to have.”

Jar­rod Evans kicked the vis­i­tors into an early lead but Mur­ray put Mun­ster ahead when he clev­erly touched down at the base of the post after 13 min­utes.

Keat­ley con­verted but Cardiff im­me­di­ately hit back through an Evans penalty be­fore Josh Turn­bull scored in the cor­ner, with out-half Evans con­vert­ing for a 13-7 lead.

Both teams’ dis­ci­pline went out the window in a scrappy re­main­ing 17 min­utes. Evans added an­other penalty be­tween Keat­ley’s two as Cardiff went into the break 16-13 in front.

“We felt dur­ing the first half we were mak­ing the same mis­takes that we made against Glas­gow,” Eras­mus said. “What Cardiff re­ally do well is if you start play­ing in your own half . . . it is on, there is space, but be­cause they go so hard at the break­down, if you con­cede penal­ties, it’s three, six points. When we got out of our half in the sec­ond half, we didn’t con­cede a point in that pe­riod.”

Mun­ster were ram­pant in the sec­ond half. Keat­ley tacked on a sec­ond penalty be­fore Ta­ufa’ao Filise was sent to the bin and the hosts ran riot.

John Ryan started the try-scor­ing spree 12 min­utes after the restart. Robin Copeland and Han­ra­han’s dou­ble, as well as Keat­ley’s boot, com­pleted the rout.

The Aviva hasn’t been a happy hunt­ing ground of late for Mun­ster and even though they have a few in­juries to con­tend with, they will at least go into the meet­ing with their old foes hav­ing re­dis­cov­ered that win­ning feel­ing. Scor­ers — Mun­ster: Han­ra­han 2 tries, Mur­ray, Ryan, Copeland 1 try each; Keat­ley 4 cons & 2 pens. Cardiff Blues: Turn­bull try; Evans con & 3 pens.

Mun­ster: A Con­way (JJ Han­ra­han 53); D Sweet­nam, J Taute (C Far­rell 19), R Scan­nell, A Woot­ton; I Keat­ley, C Mur­ray (D Wil­liams 73); D Kil­coyne (L O’Con­nor 72), N Scan­nell (R Mar­shall 57), J Ryan (S Archer 61); R Copeland (M Flana­gan 70), B Hol­land; P O’Ma­hony (capt) (S McCarthy 74), T O’Don­nell, CJ Stander.

Cardiff Blues: R Wil­liams (M Mor­gan 61); B Scully (capt) J Roberts (S Shin­gler 14), W Hala­holo, T James (K As­sir­att 28); J Evans, T Wil­liams (L Wil­liams 71); B Thyer (C Do­ma­chowski 71), M Rees (E Lewis 63), T Filise; G Earle (S Davies 63), J Down; J Turn­bull, O Robin­son, N Wil­liams (M Cook 61).

Ref­eree: Q Im­mel­man (South Africa).

Mun­ster prop John Ryan scores his side’s sec­ond try against Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park

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