Casey Laulala returned to haunt his former club as his last-gasp try got Munster out of jail and compounded Cardiff Blues’ misery, handing the visitors a 24-18 victory in the RaboDirect PRO12.
An opportunist try from scrum-half Lewis Jones had appeared to lift the gloom at the Arms Park, giving them an 18-17 lead they held until the 78th minute, but some suspect defending from the hosts opened the door for Munster.
In an error-strewn match it was Jones who pounced on the loose ball after Lou Reed had charged down Peter Stringer’s kick, leaving the Blues clinging on in a nervy final 15 minutes – and they couldn’t quite make it over the line, meaning they have now lost their last six matches in all competitions.
The Blues started the brighter and it was they who took the lead on eight minutes when Munster prop Stephen Archer was pinged for being offside.
Cardiff fly-half Jason Tovey made no mistake from the tee to break the deadlock but that stirred Munster into life and with their first attack on 12 minutes, they made their possession pay.
An impressive break saw Ronan O’Gara burst into space and as the ball spread to the right and then to the left, ex-Blues centre Laulala found Ian Keatley, who in turn found No.8 Tommy O’Donnell who cruised over.
O’Gara added the easiest of conversions but was sent to the sin bin just three minutes later for a professional foul after the impressive Robin Copeland had burst down the left.
The Blues failed to make the extra man count – although they came mighty close on 24 minutes when Dan Fish did excellently to collect a kick forward and while his pass went to ground, Gavin Evans also did well to pick the ball up, only for Tom Williams to fumble his wayward pass with the try-line beckoning.
And it was Munster, restored to 15 men, who struck the next blow, O’Gara slotting a penalty from straight in front of the posts on the half-hour mark to give the visitors a 10-3 lead at the break.
Ceri Sweeney was brought on to replace Tovey just four minutes after the break – and the move paid dividends almost immediately as the Blues got themselves back on level terms.
Following a scrum deep into Munster territory on the right, the ball found Sweeney, whose short, flat pass perfectly fed the on-rushing Dafydd Hewitt and the centre burst the visitors’ line to score – Sweeney adding the extras himself.
And the Blues moved ahead on 59 minutes when some superb team pressure brought the error form Munster, handing Sweeney the chance to add three points from the tee.
But the Blues’ suspect defence reared its head again, just a minute later, as O’Donnell scythed his way through the heart of the Cardiff back line to dive under the posts – O’Gara again adding the extras to give Munster a 17-13 lead.
The Blues refused to lie down however, and when Reed charged down replacement scrum-half Stringer’s kick, Jones kicked ahead and dived on the ball to give the hosts the lead, Sweeney narrowly missing the conversion.
And it nearly got even better for the Blues on 69 minutes, only for second row James Down to drop the ball when well-placed in the corner, ensuring the hosts’ lead stayed at one.
A nervous final 15 minutes ensued and when Munster booted a penalty down field with three minutes to go, the lineout that followed saw Laulala burst through Tom James’ poor tackle and over the line, giving Munster the win with O’Gara notching his third conversion of the night.