O'Gara and Cullen cut loose

Munster 49 - Cardiff Blues 18
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The Independent Online

Munster chalked up their third successive Celtic League success with Ronan O'Gara and Christian Cullen running the show in a real hammering of their outclassed Welsh opponents in Limerick last night.

Munster chalked up their third successive Celtic League success with Ronan O'Gara and Christian Cullen running the show in a real hammering of their outclassed Welsh opponents in Limerick last night.

Cullen, the former All Blacks full-back, helped himself to his seventh and eighth tries of the season as O'Gara pinged over seven successful kicks in a virtuoso 19-point performance.

Paul Devlin, who recently switched codes from rugby league, also touched down on his debut as Alan Gaffney's side warmed up for next weekend's Heineken Cup opener at home to Harlequins with five tries.

Gaffney was thankful again for the calming boot of O'Gara, the match-winner in the recent 28-26 victory over Glasgow, as he steadied the ship against an early Cardiff barrage.

Two Blues tries in the first 13 minutes, from the former Wales lock Craig Quinnell and the American back-row forward Kort Schubert, rocked the home side into action. Five O'Gara kicks, including his conversion of Cullen's first try, put a gloss on a disappointing first half for Munster, which they were lucky to edge.

A quick tap by the Zimbabwean No 9 Dean Dewdney caught the Munster rearguard flat-footed after only four minutes, and Quinnell bulldozed over. O'Gara planted a quick reply through the Blues' uprights six minutes later but Schubert, having charged down Peter Stringer's clearance, won the race to the line ahead of his opposing flanker Denis Leamy for 12-7.

Cullen then cemented his record as the competition's leading try-scorer. The 28-year-old chased O'Gara's grubber through to outpace Rhys Williams on 26 minutes. O'Gara's conversion put Munster 13-12 in front, but Lee Thomas put the visitors ahead again on the half-hour only for O'Gara's fourth penalty to ensure a home lead at the break.

Within 90 seconds of the restart, the Ireland outside-half had extended the advantage to seven points. The back-row forward Jim Williams then added Munster's second try in a fitful beginning to the second half. The 35-year-old fended off the challenge of the Blues' captain Martyn Williams to cross the line in the 44th minute.

A second Thomas penalty kept the Blues in the hunt at 29-18, but Munster stretched clear as first the substitute Devlin was put over in the right corner by Cullen and then the latter notched his second of the night on the hour, winning the race to another O'Gara kick through.

The Kiwi capped his man-of-the-match display as he drove over a 68th-minute drop goal, and a late try from the centre Rob Henderson consolidated Munster's rise to fourth in the table.

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