Cardiff Blues’ slim hopes of reaching the Rainbow Cup final were extinguished with a dramatic defeat to Munster in Limerick.
The Arms Park side have never won at Thomond Park, but a farcical ending revolving around the captain’s challenge gimmick cruelly denied them a maiden victory.
Cardiff started the match perfectly, with their backline finding gaps with ease thanks to crisp passing of dual-playmakers Jarrod Evans and Ben Thomas combined with the hard lines of Willis Halaholo.
Their neat work nearly set up a score for Josh Adams after a matter of seconds, only for the try-scoring pass to elude the soon-to-be Lions winger.
The first try wouldn’t take too long, though.
Halaholo cut a sharp out-to-in line off Evans, before finding Tomos Williams on the angle in support.
Cardiff kept up the pressure with their attack thriving in the wide channels, but the only other scoreboard reward they got for an impressive opening quarter was an Evans penalty.
However, that was as good as the first-half got for Young’s men.
As Munster tightened the game up, Cardiff soon found themselves on the wrong side of referee Andrew Brace – to disastrous effect.
Just after the half-hour mark, a Cardiff infringement was punished by a powerful Munster maul, with Niall Scannell the man springing up with the ball at the bottom of the pile.
Minutes later, another Cardiff penalty saw them suffer as Munster forged ahead. Lock Fineen Wycherley barrelled through Williams after an impressive carry from Springbok centre Damian de Allende.
And then, a mere seven minutes after his first try, Scannell was the beneficiary of another rolling maul following more home pressure.
The second-half saw the momentum swing back to the away side.
First, Williams crossed for his second score after Evans and Thomas combined to put Seb Davies in space. The lock found Hallam Amos in support, who fed the scrum-half to score.
The boot of Carberry extended the home side’s lead shortly after, but it wouldn’t be long before the scores were level.
A high tackle by Mike Haley on Amos saw the home side reduced to 14 men – albeit only for 10 minutes – and Cardiff didn’t need long to take advantage.
Josh Turnbull showed lovely agility to break through with a dummy and find replacement scrum-half Lloyd Williams in support to cross for their third try just shy of the hour mark.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Evans nudged Cardiff back in front with a long-range penalty, only for Munster to wrestle back the lead with a try from lock Keynan Knox.
Cardiff went in search of a dramatic winning try long after the clock went red, but the last of three captain’s challenges saw Lloyd Williams concede a free-kick for an innocuous infringement that halted proceedings in the most anticlimactic of fashions.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Damian de Allende, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander (capt).
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony, Nick McCarthy, Jack Crowley, Jack O’Sullivan.
Cardiff Blues: Hallam Amos; Jason Harries, Willis Halaholo, Ben Thomas, Josh Adams; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Corey Domachowski, Kristian Dacey, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Josh Turnbull (capt), James Botham, James Ratti.
Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Carré, Dmitri Arhip, Rory Thornton, Olly Robinson, Lloyd Williams, Dan Fish, Matthew Morgan
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)