A mouth watering clash beckoned at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin as Munster took on defending European champions Saracens… never has there been so many subplots providing the backdrop to a game attended to maximum capacity .
Munster propelled by the memory of their late coach and true Munster man Anthony Foley who died on the eve to the start of their Champions cup campaign whilst for Saracens namely their England international’s they had to banish the loss here from the six nations duty . Both sides provided a quarter of the Lions contingent touring New Zealand so playing well was a must.
Refereed by the unflappable Roman Poite the game started In true homage to Foley, Munster were ferocious in their play from the onset with wave after wave of attacks against a Saracens defence renowned for its tenacity which only yielding three points on the six minute mark as they tried to expose Billy Vunipola’s supposed lack of aerial ability, first blood Munster. A lack of control in the midfield allowed Saracens back in the game as an enterprising nearly was pulled off only for scrumhalf Wigglesworth to put down a pass from winger Sean Maitland, a certain try went begging.
The Munster supporters who filled nine tenths of the stadium roared on their team as they piled on the pressure dominating Saracens with territory, possession and yet it would be Saracens that would get the points in the scoreboard courtesy of a penalty honours even somehow.
Saracens were outstanding in their defence such that even with sin binning of Jackson Wray for a high tackle on Duncan Williams, Munster could not take advantage of the superior extra man advantage as the Sarries “WolfPack” line speed continuously pushed the Munster team back even from the initial start of attacking play partly also due to Munster having one out runners. The half time break looming prop Mako Vunipola showed his all-round skills and dinked a tantalising ball through with Chris Ashton nearly getting on the end of it , referee Roman Poite whistled for half time with Men from Allianz Park begrudgingly ahead.
The second half saw a significant change in the pattern of play as Saracens found their rhythm as a couple of chances were not capitalised on firstly with George Kruis showing his intelligence in picking up from a ruck and losing the ball as he tried to place it with close attention from replacement Deysel as well as Alex Goode’s pass to Ashton went behind with the try line in sight. The Munster scrum was feeling the pressure of the Saracens pack as they began to give away penalties with tighthead and eventual man of the match Vincent Koch leading the way. The pressure eventually told as Mako Vunipola finally took a scoring opportunity for the first try of the game. Momentum was definitely Saracens way as a trickle of penalties pushed their lead to 16-3 albeit before that Tyler Bleyendaal missed a significant penalty that would have cut the lead to seven points.
Munster Head Coach Rassie Erasmus made a raft of changes to inject some vigour into the attack and it seemed to pay off as his team went on an 18 phase play which manufactured drop goal attempt that Bleyendaal missed. Within a couple minutes Saracens capitalised as Owen Farrell kicked though a ball that Chris Wyles managed to recover and score. Farrell converting to make it 21-3 and the door seemed firmly closed on Munster’s European campaign as they conceded another penalty and the imperious Farrell knocked it over and seemingly exorcising the pain of losing there on England duty back in March. however these are proud men and their never die say attitude