MUNSTER moved to the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table thanks to an 18-13 win over Cardiff on Friday night.
A typically strong defensive display and an unblemished place-kicking return from Ian Keatley were the key components of Munsterâ€™s fourth straight win of the new campaign.
Out-half Keatley kicked six from six for a Munster side now sitting top of the League and boasting record of 14 straight League wins, the most recent of which came in a game that ended in high drama.
With the last play of the game the Blues flashed the ball wide and the impressive young wing Alex Cuthbert scorched over at the right-hand corner flag.
However, the final pass was clearly forward and the Munster players breathed a sigh of relief before emerging as deserving winners.
Next up for table toppers Munster is a tricky trip to Murrayfield to face Edinburgh on Friday evening at 7.30pm.
Ceri Sweeney finally found the range for the Blues towards the end of the first quarter, but in the 21st minute when Munster walked the Blues pack backwards Keatley nonchalantly stroked over the penalty.
He was on the mark again in the 32nd minute with a marvellous effort from wide on the left near half way and reprised that four minutes later to leave Munster leading 12-3 at the break.
Cuthbert became the first player to score a try against Munster this season when he ran one in, in the 44th minute, Sweeneyâ€™s conversion saw the gap reduced to just two points but from the restart Blues were penalised and once again Keatley dissected the posts with a cracking effort.
Munster forced a penalty from a scrum and another superb Keatley strike, his sixth from six, pushed Munster eight points clear with 23 minutes to run.
Cardiff upped the ante. Cuthbert got bundled into touch five metres out on the right and then Munster somehow defended their tryline under the posts but conceded the penalty and Sweeney made it a one score game (13-18) to ensure a frantic finish.
MUNSTER - Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer; Billy Holland, Mick Oâ€™Driscoll; Peter Oâ€™Mahony (capt), Tommy Oâ€™Donnell, James Coughlan. Replacements â€“ Niall Ronan for Coughlan (29 mins), Peter Stringer for Williams (50 mins), Denis Fogarty for Sherry (53 mins), Dave Foley for Oâ€™Mahony (56 mins), Tom Gleeson for Barnes (66 mins), John Hayes for Archer (66 mins), John Ryan for du Preez, Scott Deasy for Keatley (both 77 mins).
CARDIFF â€“ Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Gavin Evans, Dafydd Hewitt, Richard Mustoe; Ceri Sweeney, Richie Rees; Sam Hobbs, Rhys Thomas, Scott Andrews, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito capt, Mike Paterson, Xavier Rush, Maâ€™ama Molitika. Replacements: Casey Laulala for Hewitt, Lewis Jones for Rees (both 53 mins), James Down for Tito (61 mins), Nathan Trevett for Andrews, Ryan Harford for Hobbs (both 68 mins), Thomas Young for Paterson (73 mins).
REFEREE â€“ David Wilkinson (IRFU)
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