Munster Rugby got back to winning ways at home in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup with a 10-3 win at Thomond Park on Saturday evening, as dreadful weather conditions in the second half saw both sides fail to score during the second 40 minute period.
Controversy reigned at the death, as Munster kicked out the ball once the clock went into red, only for French referee Romain Poite to decide the game was not concluded. The Frenchman went to his TMO to check a tackle by Munster replacement Arno Botha. The South African clearly led with his elbow and Poite showed no hesitation in brandishing a red card to the Munsterman.
Looks like Arno Botha will be on Santa’s naughty list this year…#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/xRVdctm9fN
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 7, 2019
Though Mark McCall’s side kicked for touch from the resultant penalty, a brilliant steal from Waterford’s Jack O’Donoghue to win the lineout against the head, meant the men in red regained possession. When the home side kicked the ball for touch, Poite then called time on this clash, leaving Johann van Graan’s side 10-3 victors.
Early doors, JJ Hanrahan got Munster on the scoreboard when easily slotting over a penalty kick from directly in front of the posts in the 18th minute – due reward for the home side’s pressure and effort in the opening stages of the game.
Rory Scannell’s try in the 22nd minute was ruled out by referee Romain Poite when television footage showed the ball had been knocked on earlier in the move. Munster had opened up the Saracens defence while showing great variety in their play, with Mike Haley and Andrew Conway both prominent, only for Scannell’s touch down to be ruled out.
Munster finally claimed a try when a cut-out pass from Rory Scannell found Keith Earls out on the wing. The Myross man beat fullback Matt Gallagher, son of All Black World Cup winner in 1987, John, before a quickly recycled ball found captain O’Mahony, who stretched for the line for his side’s first five-pointer. Hanrahan converted for 10-0 after 31 minute, a scoreline fully deserved by the hosts for their dominant half-hour of this fixture.
Moments later, however, a penalty kick conceded by Munster gave Ben Spencer an opportunity to get his side on the scoreboard, only for his effort to come off the upright. An error from the men in red when trying to then clear their lines saw van Graan’s side concede another easier penalty effort. Spencer this time converted for 10-3 minutes before the interval.
Half-time: Munster Rugby 10 Saracens 3.
Ben Spencer should have brought his side closer to Munster on the scoreboard when taking a penalty kick in the early minutes of the second period. Incredibly, Spencer again hit the left-hand upright post, just as he had done during the first 40 minutes. A booming Peter O’Mahony kick cleared the imminent danger.
Saracens had clearly targeted the Munster kicking game, with Conor Murray suffering as a result. The home side, facing into the bad weather, spent most of the second 40 minutes deep inside their own half of the field, as the heavy rain and blustery conditions played havoc with both sides.
With Arno Botha red carded for leading with his arm in the closing stages of the game, Munster held on for a 10-3 win, in a game where they lacked precision against a clearly weakened Saracens side. The Gallagher Premiership club will feel satisfied with their trip to Limerick this evening, having taking home a losing bonus point, with both Munster and Racing having to yet travel to London to play Mark McCall’s side.
For Munster, the win will be welcome following their recent Champions Cup home draw against Racing. Johann van Graan’s team will be in England next weekend to again face Saracens, who will likely field a much stronger team at home than they did this afternoon.
Final score: Munster Rugby 10 Saracens 3.
15. Mike Haley, 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Chris Farrell, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Keith Earls, 10. JJ Hanrahan, 9. Conor Murray.
1. James Cronin, 2. Niall Scannell, 3. Stephen Archer, 4. Jean Kleyn, 5. Billy Holland, 6. Tadhg Beirne, 7. Peter O’Mahony (captain), 8. CJ Stander.
16. Kevin O’Byrne, 17. Liam O’Connor, 18. John Ryan, 19. Fineen Wycherley, 20. Jack O’Donoghue, 21. Nick McCarthy, 22. Sammy Arnold, 23. Arno Botha.
15. M. Gallagher, 14. R. Segun, 13. A. Lozowski, 12. B. Barritt (captain), 11. A. Lewington, 10. Manu Vunipola, 9. B. Spencer.
1. R. Barrington, 2. J. Singleton, 3. T. Lamositele, 4. W. Skelton, 5. M. Itoje, 6. N. Isiekwe, 7. B. Earl, 8. J. Wray.
16. K. Pifeleti, 17. R. Carre, 18. J. Ibuanokpe, 19. J. Kpoku, 20. S. Reffell, 21. T. Whiteley, 22. M. Malins, 23. N. Tompkins.
Referee: Romain Poite (FRA).
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