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Munster 37-8 Cardiff Blues
5 May 2006, 9:38 pm
Heineken Cup champions Munster made it an Irish 1-2-3 at the top of the Celtic League as they rounded off their season in style with a five-try defeat of Cardiff.
Heineken Cup champions Munster made it an Irish 1-2-3 at the top of the Celtic League as they rounded off their season in style with a five-try defeat of Cardiff.

The Blues, already assured of their best ever League finish, proved no match for the hosts as tries from centres John Kelly (2) and Trevor Halstead, prop Federico Pucciariello and winger Mossie Lawlor saw Munster clinch third place.

On a night when Rob Henderson, Paul Burke, Trevor Hogan, Stephen Keogh and Mike Prendergast played their last games for the Province - the injured Mike Mullins is also returning to his native New Zealand after 114 games in Munster red - there was little but celebration on the minds of the 13,200-strong Thomond Park crowd.

Although the mood was dampened when Kelly was forced off with an injury to his left shoulder which casts immediate doubts over his participation in Ireland s summer tour Down Under.

For Cardiff s part they battled bravely and hooker Duane Goodfield s 19th-minute try kept them competitive until Munster suckered them with three late tries.

Including only four players who started last weekend s Heineken Cup decider, Munster allowed Nick Macleod an early shot at their posts but the Cardiff full-back misjudged a blustery wind.

A move off a right-sided scrum saw Kelly get in for Munster s opener after seven minutes. The ball was worked out to the left flank where Shaun Payne and Lawlor combined to put Kelly over.

Fly-half Jeremy Manning, who qualifies for Ireland in August, converted and tagged on a 14th-minute penalty.

The busy Mike Phillips then drilled the Cardiff pack into pick-and-drive mode.

Their first tilt at the Munster line saw a Rob Sidoli-led attack held at bay. But moments later, and with numbers out wide, the ball was spun out for Welsh Under-21 international Goodfield to step inside Hogan and lunge over for his first League try, which went unconverted.

Munster wasted little time in replying as Italian international Pucciariello picked off a ruck and plunged over for his fifth League score. Manning converted and swapped penalties with Macleod as Munster ended the first half 18-8 in front.

The second half had a typical end-of-season feel. The Leicester-bound Burke came on for Manning and missed a penalty, but with Cardiff offering little in attack, Munster s lead was never in danger.

Alan Quinlan, who looked to have done enough to nab the last back row spot in the Irish squad, linked well off a scrum for Burke to send a flick pass out for Kelly s second try on 64 minutes.

Burke converted and Munster added two more tries in injury time with Halstead racing clear and offloading in superb time for Lawlor to dive in at the left corner.

Halstead completed the rout when he intercepted the unfortunate David Flanagan in midfield and thundered through for another seven-pointer right at the death.

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