Pro14: Cardiff Blues 11-20 Munster - visitors spoil hosts' Arms Park return

Pro14: Cardiff Blues v Munster
Cardiff Blues (8) 11
Tries: S Davies Pens: B Thomas 2
Munster (6) 20
Tries: Kleyn, N Scannell Cons: Hanrahan, Carbery Pens: Hanrahan 2

Munster spoiled Cardiff Blues' return to their Arms Park home after more than a year away with a hard-fought win.

Seb Davies burst clear for the opening try with Ben Thomas adding a penalty.

JJ Hanrahan hit the target twice for the visitors, but Blues held a narrow lead at the break.

Munster's power off the bench paid dividends as Jean Kleyn's try and Hanrahan's conversion put them into the lead and Niall Scannell's late touchdown sealed their win.

The win also cemented Munster's lead at the top of Conference B and provided a welcome return to Munster duty for Ireland fly-half Joey Carbery, who came off the bench after the break to make his first appearance in more than a year after a long-term injury.

Carbery had played just twice since sustaining an ankle injury before the 2019 World Cup, but his angled conversion of Scannell's score ensured there was no way back for the hosts and took away a losing bonus point.

Josh Turnbull led the hosts on their return to the city centre as he made his 150th appearance as one of five changes.

The visitors made six starting changes following their 22-10 win over Edinburgh last weekend, including wing Shane Daley, who was back from the Ireland camp.

Cardiff Blues' last Pro14 game at Cardiff Arms Park was against Benetton on 23 February, 2020
Cardiff Blues had last played at Cardiff Arms Park in the Pro14 against Benetton on 23 February, 2020

The Arms Park was used for medical support facilities when the Dragon's Heart hospital was set up next door at the Principality Stadium earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, with the artificial playing surface having to be relaid afterwards.

Blues played five 'home' games at Rodney Parade and two at Cardiff City Stadium during their exile.

Wales lock Davies' opening try provided a memorable moment to mark Blues being back at home as he strode through from Thomas' well-weighted pass.

Hanrahan and Thomas' kicking exchanges included each hitting an upright after the break.

Thomas' effort could have put Blues back ahead after Kleyn had powered over to give Munster the lead for the first time after 54 minutes.

The visitors repelled Blues' attempts to regain the initiative and after driving over replacement hooker Scannell, took control in the final minutes.

Home flanker Ellis Jenkins was man of the match in only his second competitive game back after a two-year absence following knee surgery.

Cardiff Blues boss Dai Young told BBC Sport Wales:

"It's a bit of a mirror image to last week [Blues lost against Connacht]. Irish provinces know how to win the game when it's tight and it's something we need to develop in our game.

"I thought for big parts of that game we were more than equal to them and I'm really disappointed that we didn't go away with anything, at least a losing bonus point.

"But we could have won those games. With 10 minutes to go, they tightened the game up and basically just forced penalties and ground out a win - that's what we need to learn very quickly.

"We've been up against it (in ensuring a Champions Cup place) for a number of weeks, the Scarlets results put us back in the mix, we've probably got an outside chance but we've got to win two games and maybe need a favour from somebody else."

Munster head coach Johann van Graan told BBC Sport Wales:

"A really tough game against a quality side, we knew it was going to be a big contact battle and it took us some time to adjust to the 4G pitch, but really happy with the win, our bench did really well.

"Three games to go, nine points up but you are only in the final once you qualify. We're playing a quality side and one thing this time of Covid has taught us is to take things day by day.

"Very nice for Joey Carberry to be back, he enjoyed it, he took a big tackle at the beginning to welcome him back into the game, and I'm glad he took that conversion (successfully) from near the touchline."

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan, Owen Lane, Mason Grady, Rey Lee-Lo, Aled Summerhill; Ben Thomas, Jamie Hill; Corey Domachowski, Kirby Myhill, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Turnbull (capt).

Replacements: Liam Belcher, Theo Bevacqua, Keiron Assiratti, James Ratti, Olly Robinson, Lewis Jones, Dan Fish, Max Llewellyn.

Munster: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Rory Scannell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; James Cronin, Kevin O'Byrne, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O'Donoghue (capt), Chris Cloete, Jack O'Sullivan.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Liam O'Connor, Roman Salanoa, Billy Holland, Gavin Coombes, Paddy Patterson, Joey Carbery, Darren Sweetnam.

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU)

Assistant Referees: Ben Whitehouse, Dan Jones (both WRU)

TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU)

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