Click here for photos from Munster's Heineken Cup Pool 4 success over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park on Sunday.
Pictured above: Referee Christophe Berdos awards Munster their only try in Cardiff as he spots Denis Leamy's grounding of the ball. It was number eight Leamy's second try in five Heineken Cup games.
The cup holders put in a satisfying performance, holding off the Blues to earn their third straight win in Pool 4, but coach Declan Kidney knows Munster cannot afford to rest on their laurels. They are sure to face a fired-up Cardiff side next Saturday (Thomond Park, kick-off 5.35pm).
He said: "We certainly don't want to face the same problems as we did this week. It's a great position to be in at the halfway stage, but that's just where we are - only at the halfway stage.
"The way the group is panning out, you might just have to win all six matches just to get out of the group." Munster, who sit on 13 points, have a four-point advantage over the second-placed Leicester.
Munster centre Trevor Halstead goes on the attack as the Arms Park, with Paul O'Connell and Tomas O'Leary in support. O'Connell and company will defend the province's proud 30-match unbeaten home record in the Heineken Cup next weekend - the run began in October 1997 after Cardiff had been triumphant the previous month at Musgrave Park.
Mindful that his charges are not in the last-eight just yet, Kidney added: "Leicester have two home games to come and we have still got to face them in Limerick in Round 6. And we know that just one defeat in this pool and everything is back in the melting pot."
Mike Phillips is caught in a tackle by Munster out-half Ronan O'Gara, who notced 17 points on Sunday to take his Heineken Cup points record to 803 points. The Corkman said afterwards: "We're delighted with the result, but not so much the performance. We never hit the heights of some of our better performances, although to win away from home by ten points, and deny Cardiff a bonus point, is hugely satisfying.
"I don't think we reached the standards of top European rugby and we know we've got a lot to work on before next weekend at Thomond Park. The only good thing is that it is always easier to work hard when you are winning."
Munster skipper Paul O'Connell, making his 34th Heineken Cup appearance, is tackled by Cardiff's Tongan prop Taufa'ao Filise. O'Connell could lead his province to yet another record next weekend when the Blues visit Thomond Park - Munster could secure their 12th consecutive Heineken Cup win and beat the previous mark of 11 set by Leicester.
Reflecting on Munster's stunning home form in the competition, the Limerick-born lock said: "None of us wants to be in the team that finally loses a Heineken Cup tie at home. Of course we know it's going to happen sometime as records are merely there to be broken.
"It puts pressure on us and there is certainly a bit of a fear factor involved. But it gives us a perverse kind of motivation. It is a great situation to be in with three wins from three but we are still a long way off our best."
Ronan O'Gara lines up a penalty at the Arms Park. The Munster and Ireland number 10 could hardly have had a better start to the season, playing a pivotal role in Ireland's Autumn Test wins over South Africa and Australia and guiding his province to three European wins on the trot.
Ever the perfectionist, O'Gara still picked holes in the men in red's performance in Cardiff. He said: "At times I felt we were cruising in the conditions and that won't do. We need to be more critical and demanding of ourselves.
"It wasn't a pretty performance but we're in a results-driven business and we have won three out of three so far, and a lot of teams would like to be where we are at this stage."
Shorts or no shorts, there is a lineout to be called! Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan shows his commitment, preparing for a lineout minus his ripped shorts. Seconds later, referee Berdos stepped in to tell him: "You cannot play like zis!!"
Cue replacement shorts from the sidelines, but the Corkman is unlikely to forget the incident for a while yet - there is a very funny and festive verse entitled "Donncha the red pants lock boy", sung to the tune of "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer", already doing the rounds in the province.
O'Callaghan gets his replacement shorts and Munster are back in business. Incredibly Sunday's win was Munster's first success in four Heineken Cup meetings with Cardiff - their three previous defeats came in 1996 and 1997.
Tomas O'Leary, who was only called into the Munster side on Sunday morning after Anthony Horgan's withdrawal due to an Achilles tendon injury, tries to snipe through the Cardiff rearguard. Blues boss Dai Young was quick to acknowledge Munster's strength after his side slipped to their second successive defeat in Pool 4.
He said: "It was typical Munster. You don't win the Heineken Cup by accident, and they ground out the win. We have a huge respect for Munster and we know it will be a huge formidable task for us at Thomond Park.
"Losing this game has made our life very difficult, but we will go out with all guns blazing next Saturday. We're not giving up, that's for sure."
Peter Stringer and Alan Quinlan combine to halt the progress of Cardiff captain Xavier Rush. After winning his 64th Heineken Cup cap, scrum half Stringer pointed out that Munster's ability to capitalise on Martyn Williams' sin-binning was key (the visitors scored the only try through Denis Leamy while the Blues flanker was off the field).
The Irish international said: "That was the crucial factor I felt. When we lost Federico (Pucciariello to a yellow card) we knew that the challenge was not to concede any points while he was off and we were determined to do that.
'In fact we actually scored three in that time and when he came back on you could see he was determined to make up for lost time. Then when they had Williams sin-binned we took as much advantage as we possibly could, and I felt that was the real difference."
Paul O'Connell competes with James Goode for a lineout ball. Stringer added: "To come here to Cardiff and win is a massive victory for us. Don't be under any illusions about that. We are pleased because we are at the halfway stage of the pool now and in a very good position.
'The conditions were really difficult and the pitch was heavy by the end, but we kept going. We have it all to do against the Blues again next weekend, but it will be good to be at home."
Heineken Cup man of the match Alan Quinlan carries forward for Munster. The 32-year-old Tipperary man marked his 50th game in the competition with an inspiring display, particularly at the breakdown and at maul time.
He said afterwards: "This is probably the best start we have had in the Heineken Cup and we are in a good position, but we're under no illusions as to just how tough the next three matches are going to be. We have no divine right to win these games. It is going to be very difficult against Cardiff next weekend and we know that we always have to lift ourselves for the Heineken Cup."
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**