Apr 22, 2017
Miserly Saracens suffocate Munster to book final date
Saracens booked their place in the European Rugby Champions Cup final with a 26-10 win over Munster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Tries from Mako Vunipola and replacement wing Chris Wyles in his 50th European game and 16-points from the faultless Owen Farrell inflicted the damage as Saracens produced another defensive masterclass to suffocate the Irish Province in front of a partisan sell-out crowd at the home of Irish Rugby.
The game was billed as European Rugby’s meeting of two of its finest heavyweights. In the Black corner were the reigning European champions Saracens, up against the home favourite and local heroes in the Red corner, Munster.
The game was European Rugby’s version of Muhammad Ali’s ‘rope-a-dope’ tactic as the Men in Black hunched against the ropes as the Red Machine rained blow after blow on the north Londoners. Yet they went into half-time with a 6-3 lead after Farrell landed a late first half penalty. A sucker punch for the Munstermen whose heavy artillery of CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell and centre Jaco Taute threw some of their finest combinations to no avail in the first-half.
It was Munster who drew first blood after seven minute’s play in which Saracens barely saw the ball. Munster outside half Tyler Bleyendaal landed the kick but Sarries breathed a collective sigh of relief with Munster going dangerously close to scoring the first try of the game.
If Munster went close to the first try then Saracens really should have scored minutes later, but after Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell then Alex Goode released left wing Sean Maitland the Scotland internationals pass wasn’t collected by the supporting Richard Wigglesworth who was certain to score. A rare blemish from the excellent Sarries number nine.
Owen Farrell levelled the scores with a 16th minute penalty after Munster wing Andrew Conway failed to roll-away at a ruck as Saracens continued plug away on the back foot. Munster were encouraged when Jackson Wray fell foul of referee Roman Poite for a high-tackle on Munster’s stand-in scrum-half Duncan Williams.
Sarries though dug-in, showing their resolve and spirit to keep the Irish Province scoreless not just during Wray’s ten-minute hiatus, but for the rest of the half. With Wray now back on the field, Saracens forced Munster into a scrum penalty with tighthead prop Vincent Koch causing Munster’s Dave Kilcoyne to produce a first half to forget at the set-piece. Owen Farrell stepped up and landed the three points to give Sarries the lead very much against the run of play.
The second half saw Saracens come out on the front foot but the Men in Black’s accuracy was conspicuous in its absence with Chris Ashton and George Kruis adding to Richard Wigglesworth’s earlier profligacy.
Champion teams though remain calm amongst the chaos, and Saracens’ patience and clear mindedness would eventually pay off with Mako Vunipola burrowing over for the first score of the game. Sarries kicked to touch from a penalty and after the first surge was stopped inches short, Sarries recycled and found Vunipola who charged over to score.
Munster had their chances to keep the scoreboard ticking over, but misses from Tyler Bleyendaal would prove to be costly.
Sarries continued to soak up the pressure but it was Mark McCall’s men who would land the knock-out blow when Chris Wyles battled with Simon Zebo for an Owen Farrell grubber and grounded the ball.
Farrell added another penalty before Munster’s CJ Stander crossed for a consolation score as Saracens booked their place in the Champions Cup showpiece in Edinburgh.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch( Lozowski 75), Brad Barritt (c), Sean Maitland; (Wyles 63); Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth(Spencer 72); Mako Vunipola (Lamositele 72), Jamie George, (Brits 51), Vincent Koch (Du Plessis 72), Maro Itoje (Hamilton 75), George Kruis, Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray( Burger 56), Billy Vunipola:
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Titi Lamositele, Petrus du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Schalk Burger, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles
Scores Tries M.Vunipola(54); Wyles(70):
Cons Farrell x 2:
Penalties Farrell x 4
Munster Rugby: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute(Saili 64), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, (Sweetnam 64); Tyler Bleyendaal (Keatley 72), Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne(Cronin 53), Niall Scannell,(Marshall 61); John Ryan(Archer 64), Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (c)(O'Callaghan 53), Tommy O'Donnell( Deysel 51), CJ Stander:
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O'Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Ian Keatley, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam:
Scores Try Stander(80):
Scoring Sequence 3-0 Bleyendaal pen; 3-3 Farrell pen; 3-6 Farrell pen; 3-11 M.Vunipola try; 3-13 Farrell con; 3-16 Farrell pen; 3-21 Wyles try; 3-23 Farrell con; 3-26 Farrell pen; 8-26 Stander try; 10-26 Keatley con:
Yellow card Wray (23)
Man of the match Vincent Koch