Powerful Sarries crush Munster

Date published: January 17 2015

Saracens ended Munster’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages with a convincing 33-10 win at Allianz Park.

The win for Sarries puts them top of the Champions Cup Pool One ahead of Clermont, who take on Sale, with the English side travelling to France for a decider next weekend.

Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton, twice, scored the tries for the home side, and Billy Vunipola impressed, as Munster failed to deal with his ball-carrying.

Denis Hurley’s score for Munster eight minutes from time gave them a glimmer of hope, but they were outplayed and never really threatened the comeback.

Saracens nearly made the perfect start when Alistair Hargreaves almost went over, but Munster were able force him into touch just short of the line.

The home team did open the scoring though, on ten minutes, when Owen Farrell slotted a penalty from inside the Munster 22 after the visitors had failed to roll away from a ruck.

Still, Munster enjoyed a decent period of possession and looked dangerous, without creating any clearcut chances.

They were struggling at scrum-time though, and the first try came after an impressive Saracens drive. Having made ground at the set-piece, Sarries then went through a couple of phases before getting their backs involved.

Billy Vunipola was the key, drawing in two Munster defenders with his dummy run. That gave Sarries a huge overlap and they went through the hands and Wyles, a late addition to the starting lineup for the injured David Strettle, went over in the corner.

Farrell converted to make it 10-0 after 22 minutes and it already looked a long way back for Munster.

Things got worse for Munster when they lost number eight CJ Stander to injury, and another big scrum earned another penalty, which Farrell slotted to make it 13-0.

The visitors finally got on the board just after the half-hour when the Saracens scrum was penalised for going early for the second time, Ian Keatley made no mistake from 40 metres out.

But Sarries hit straight back with their second try to effectively end the game as a contest. It came from a quick tap penalty, and the ball was again spread to Wyles who raced down the left.

The covering Munster defence desperately tried to force Wyles into touch, but the American played a lovely grubber inside and Ashton was on hand to dot down. Farrell’s conversion made it 20-3 to the home side with five minutes to go before the break.

And there was still time for Farrell to add three more points to make it 23-3 at half-time and it was one-way traffic.

Munster needed a quick start to the second half, and they almost got it when Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo made linebreaks in quick succession to put Sarries on the back foot.

However after reaching the Saracens five-metre line, Munster couldn’t find a way through, and eventually conceded a penalty for holding on as the chance went begging.

The home side hit straight back with a huge drive from Billy Vunipola, who had been hugely influential in the first half, but on this occasion Munster held out.

They did eventually add to their lead with another Farrell penalty after the Saracens scrum dominated once more, stretching the lead to three scores.

There was no way back for Munster, although curiously they tried another kick at goal with quarter of an hour remaining, rather than going for a bonus point.

Farrell was off-target, but two minutes later Munster infringed again, this time James Cronin was penalised, and he was given ten minutes in the bin to make matters worse.

Being a man down seemed to galvanize Munster, and they finally got over the line for the first time through Hurley. It came after a good break from Peter O’Mahony, and it seemed like an unlikely comeback might be on.

Those hopes were quickly extinguished though as Saracens again found some space, with Ashton completing his double to put the home side within a try of a bonus point.

They could not find that fourth try though, and as a result, still have work to do in Clermont to ensure a place in the last eight.

Munster, meanwhile, lost a third straight game in Europe for the first time in their history, and are out of the competition as a result.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Wyles, Ashton 2
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 4

For Munster:
Try: Hurley
Con: Keatley
Pen: Keatley
Yellow Card: Cronin

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 John Ryan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Dave O’Callaghan, 21 Ronan O’Mahony, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Keith Earls.

Venue: Allianz Park, Barnet
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Christophe Berdos (France); Tual Trainini (France)