Cullen hits Cardiff to the edge of despair

Munster 49 - Cardiff Blues 18
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Munster fine-tuned their Heineken Cup preparations by sending Cardiff Blues' season to the brink of oblivion at Thomond Park. Christian Cullen continued to show the type of form that makes him one of the most exciting players in world rugby by adding a drop goal to his two tries, which were both created by the boot of Ronan O'Gara, who also added 19 points.

Munster fine-tuned their Heineken Cup preparations by sending Cardiff Blues' season to the brink of oblivion at Thomond Park. Christian Cullen continued to show the type of form that makes him one of the most exciting players in world rugby by adding a drop goal to his two tries, which were both created by the boot of Ronan O'Gara, who also added 19 points.

Of more concern to the Munster coach, Alan Gaffney, will have been the lethargy with which his team began against the struggling Blues. "It is a bit of a worry because we have started very slowly in the last few weeks and been forced to really fight back hard," he said. "We will not be able to do that at Heineken Cup level."

The contrast with Gaffney's opposite number, David Young, though, could not have been more marked. Despite taking a shock 12-3 lead through tries from Craig Quinnell and the American flanker Kort Schubert, the Blues slumped to yet another defeat on the road. It is now more than seven months since Cardiff last won away from the Arms Park and that does not bode well for their start to the Heineken Cup - away to Ulster on Friday night.

"Any team that goes into Europe missing the quality players we are at the moment would find it difficult," said Young. "No one really gives us a chance and the other teams in the pool probably even think we're the weakest team there, but all I have told the players is to respond to that on the field."

Despite missing the likes of the Robinson brothers, Jamie and Nick, Cardiff did respond to stinging recent criticism by taking the initiative. They were unfortunate to fall behind before half-time when Cullen was awarded the first of his brace despite not appearing to have grounded the ball.

But Munster turned it on in devastating style after the break, with 30 points through tries from Jim Williams, Paul Devlin, Cullen again and Rob Henderson, and the prodigious boot of O'Gara.

Munster: Tries Cullen 2, Williams, Devlin, Henderson; Conversions O'Gara 2, Burke; Penalties O'Gara 5; Drop goal Cullen; Cardiff: Tries Quinnell, Schubert; Conversion L Thomas; Penalties L Thomas 2.

Munster: C Cullen; J Kelly, S Payne (P Devlin, 40), R Henderson, A Horgan; R O'Gara (P Burke, 67), P Stringer; M Horan, F Sheahan (J Flannery, 21-30, 73), J Hayes (G McIlwham, 75), T Hogan, P O'Connell (T Bowman, 73), J Williams (A Quinlan, 64), A Foley (capt), D Leamy.

Cardiff: C Morgan; J Vaughton, R Williams, T Shanklin, F Tuilagi; L Thomas, D Dewdney (R Smith, 68); G Jenkins, G Williams (R Thomas, 71), M Jones (A Lewis, 62), C Quinnell (D Jones, 69), R Sidoli, N Thomas (N Budgett, 71), K Schubert, M Williams (capt).

Referee: D Changleng (Scotland)

Comments