Tuesday 20 November 2018

Jones inspires Munster to Cardiff scalp

Felix Jones made a try-scoring return to Thomond Park as his early score helped Munster scramble to a 16-13 PRO12 win over Cardiff Blues.

Munster were left sweating by the finish as they were held scoreless in the second half, with the Blues battling back to within three points of their play-off rivals.

It was a welcome result for Munster in a week in which their head coach Tony McGahan's departure for the Wallabies' defensive post was all but confirmed.

Dan Parks had kicked Cardiff in front but Jones' try and four successful kicks from Ian Keatley gave Munster a 16-3 interval lead.

Richard Mustoe's 48th-minute touchdown laid the foundations for Cardiff's comeback, but they fell just short in the end.

Jones had a settling early touch as he made his first start for Munster since his World Cup hopes were ruined by a foot injury in August.

The Blues nosed ahead thanks to Parks' fifth-minute opener, but Keatley punished Gavin Henson for going offside when kicking the hosts level from outside the 22.

Munster had the psychological advantage when a BJ Botha-inspired scrum won them a pressure-lifting penalty, and they struck for their first try in the very next phase.

Simon Zebo (pictured) provided the injection of pace to carve open the Cardiff defence and the winger then sent Jones speeding in by the posts. Keatley converted and tagged on two more successful penalties. Michael Paterson led the Blues' response, breaking over halfway and linking with Richie Rees. The move was swept out to the left corner where only a crucial turnover from Zebo kept the Welshmen out.

Henson darted through a midfield gap to set up a good position for Cardiff early in the second period.

They duly took advantage, a timely thread of passes putting winger Mustoe over in the right corner.

Parks' conversion closed the gap to 16-10.

Replacement Ben Blair landed a central penalty for the Blues to make it a three-point game, but the hosts saw out a breathless victory.

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