Tries in each half from Marcus Horan and Denis Leamy proved crucial as Munster got the better of Cardiff Blues in a well-contested Magners League encounter at Thomond Park Stadium on Friday.
Alan Quinlan returned from the 12-week suspension which saw him miss the Lions tour to help Munster overcome the Cardiff Blues and post their first win of the new Magners League campaign.
Quinlan was to the forefront of a Munster back row that bossed the breakdown, aided by the brilliantly effective Niall Ronan and try-scoring number 8 Denis Leamy.
The defending Magners League champions scored at key stages of the game as tries from Marcus Horan and Leamy and a 14-point kicking contribution from impressive out-half Jeremy Manning got them over the finish line.
Looking to recover from last week’s home defeat to Edinburgh, Cardiff racked up 10 points either side of half-time.
Xavier Rush got over for a converted try and Ben Blair kicked a penalty to close the gap to 16-13 but Munster, helped by a hungry bench, regained control to chalk up their eighth straight home win in all competitions.
Blues boss Dai Young made five changes from the Edinburgh game, the most notable of which saw Ceri Sweeney slot in at number 10 for Australian Sam Norton-Knight who endured a nightmare debut last week.
There were seasonal debuts for Quinlan and John Hayes as part of three team changes for Munster. The early pressure duly came from the hosts but Manning was off target from a penalty and drop goal attempt.
Defences were on top, particularly in Cardiff’s case as Robin Sowden-Taylor and Ma’ama Molitika got up quickly to prevent Munster from gaining momentum.
The stalemate was broken on 18 minutes when an excellent kick chase from the Munster forwards forced Leigh Halfpenny to concede a penalty which Manning slotted over
However, Doug Howlett got isolated on the restart and his countryman Ben Blair kicked the Blues level.
As the first half wore on though, the visitors were the ones making the errors. An accidental offside by Dafydd Hewitt spoiled a superb run out of his 22 from Halfpenny and from the resulting scrum, Leamy surged forward before a quick recycle saw Horan burrow past Rush from the first try.
Manning kicked the conversion and then fired over a 30-metre penalty, pushing Munster 16-3 ahead after a ruck offence from Rush.
But the big New Zealander was back on top form just before half-time. He scored a timely try, arcing his way past Peter Stringer on a fantastic run to the line after Blair’s chip and chase had split the defence.
Blair’s successful conversion made it 16-10 for half-time and the Kiwi full-back potted a difficult penalty, three minutes into the second half, to continue his side’s resurgence.
But that was as good as it got for a Cardiff side containing 14 full internationals. They lost Molitika to the sin-bin for a late, shoulder-led challenge on Manning who responded well by kicking the penalty for 19-13.
With their dominance shining through again at the breakdown and set piece, Munster bided their time and the second try arrived on the hour mark.
A barnstorming burst close to the right touchline from replacement Tony Buckley got the home side within sight of the line and Cardiff’s fringe defence gave way at the next phase as Leamy twisted out of a tackle and over.
Manning missed the conversion and Munster lost centre Lifeimi Mafi to the sin-bin for interfering at a Cardiff ruck, six minutes from the end, but the Blues found no way of mounting a comeback.