Champions Cup: Munster v Saracens

Munster in a record 12th European Cup semi-final against reigning champions Saracens at the Aviva

Eamon Donoghue Sat, Apr 22
LIVE: Champions Cup: Munster v Saracens

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  • Hello and Welcome . . . Dublin is aflush with red jerseys, it's the first of the weekend's Champions Cup semi-finals - Munster versus Saracens at the Aviva. And what a game we have in store!

    The reigning champions against the record 12 times semi-finalists, the team with arguably the greatest European pedigree of them all, against the team in the process of creating their own legacy.

    It kicks off at 3.15pm and we'll keep you updated throughout right here. Be sure to get in touch throughout, via either the comments section ('Contact Us' tab) or on Twitter (@DonoghueEamon).
  • Gerry Thornley's LOWDOWN:

    European Champions Cup semi-final:  Munster v Saracens  

    Kick off:  3.15pm.

    Venue:  Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

    TV:  BT Sport3, 2.30

    MUNSTER:  S Zebo; A Conway, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, D Ryan, B Holland, P O’Mahony (c), T O’Donnell, CJ Stander .

    Replacements: R Marshall, JCronin, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, J Deysel, I Keatley, F Saili, D Sweetnam.

    SARACENS:  A Goode; C Ashton, M Bosch, B Barritt (c), SMaitland; O Farrell, R Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, J George, V Koch, M Itoje, G Kruis, M Rhodes, J Wray, B Vunipola.

    Replacements: S Brits, T Lamositele, P du Plessis, J Hamilton, S Burger, B Spencer, A Lozowski, C Wyles.

    Referee:  Romain Poite  (Fra)

    Routes to semi-finals: Munster  – W 38-17 v Glasgow (h); W 38-0 v Leicester (h), L 16-18 v Leicester (a); 32-7 v Racing (a); W 14-12 v Glasgow (h), W 22-10 v Racing (h), (q/f) W 41-16 v Toulouse (h).

    Saracens –  W 31-23 v Toulon (a); W 44-26 v Scarlets (h), W 50-3 v Sale (h); W 24-10 v Sale (a); D 22-22 v Scarlets (a); W 10-3 v Toulon (h); (q/f) W 38-13 v Glasgow (h).

    Leading points scorers: Munster  – Tyler Bleyendaal 94.  Saracens  – Owen Farrell 97.

    Leading try scorers: Munster  – Simon Zebo 4.  Saracens  – Chris Ashton 5.

    Head to head:  Played 7, Munster 5 wins, Saracens 2 wins.

    Last three meetings:  (2011-12) Saracens 19 Munster 13. (2014-15) Munster 14 Saracens 3, Saracens 33 Munster 10.

    Betting  (Paddy Power): 13/8 Munster, 17/1 Draw, 8/15 Saracens. Handicap odds (Munster +4pts) Evens Munster, 20/1 Draw, Evens Saracens.

    Forecast:  Saracens to win.

  • Good news for Munster with CJ Stander fit and named to start, but Conor Murray again misses out. He's yet to play since going off with a shoulder injury against Wales in the Six Nations, but Duncan Williams had a fine game in deputising against Toulouse.  

    The big head-turner though is the lack of a specialist scrumhalf among the Munster replacements. Ian Keatley is set to fill in there if needed, in a position he would certainly not be familiar with.  

    "Munster are at their best when they have a cause, and as they’ve proved in winning 20 of their last 22 matches since the passing of Anthony Foley, they are certainly not without their causes this season, and particularly so today, with the reigning English and European champions swaggering into town as warm favourites."

    Read Gerry Thornley's preview in full here, he's backing Saracens . . .  

  • Munster v Saracens: The key match facts and stats

    "This will be the eighth meeting between the clubs; Munster have won five of the previous seven clashes (lost two), although those two defeats against Saracens have come in their last three meetings."

    Read that piece in full here

  • Some more stats for you all
    Some more stats for you all
  • <strong>Owen Farrell  (97) and Tyler Bleyendaal</strong><span><strong>  (94)</strong> are the top point scorers in the Champions Cup this season, and no other player has scored more than 80 points to date. Farrell was last season’s top scorer with 127 points.</span>
    Owen Farrell  (97) and Tyler Bleyendaal  (94) are the top point scorers in the Champions Cup this season, and no other player has scored more than 80 points to date. Farrell was last season’s top scorer with 127 points.
  • A look now at the both Munster and Saracens' route the last four . . .  
  • Just over 15 minutes now to kick-off.

    Here's Rassie Erasmus' pre-match thoughts: "For them they've been here and done that. We've a few lads who this is the first time.

    "We just told the lads to go out there and perform and enjoy it. If nobody goes out there and freezes and it'll be tight."

    On the lack of a specialist scrumhalf replacement in the matchday squad: "If you want the biscuit you have to risk it!"

  • Also Conor Murray says pre-match that he is about 80-85 per cent back to full fitness. Trying to put the strength back in his arm. He notes Duncan Williams' fitness levels and injury record as a good reason to take the risk and go without a replacement scrumhalf today.

    There's no question that it's a risk for Munster. A worthwhile one? We'll soon find out.

  • "Saracens will never be like Munster because none of the players hail from the club’s catchment area. That area is hard to define; the training ground is a 30 minute drive to Allianz Park in north London" - Gavin Cummiskey.

    Mark McCall has played a key role in helping build a north London rugby powerhouse. Gavin caught up with the Saracens director of rugby during the week.  

    “There was a bit of a revolving door, players and coaches came and went. Eight years ago the club made the decision that that definitely wasn’t the way forward.”

    Read that piece in full here

  • The two teams are out on the field, the Aviva is a sea of red!!
  • Munster 0 Saracens 0 (1')  Tyler Bleyendaal gets us underway, Billy Vunipola gathers. Game on!
  • Munster 0 Saracens 0 (2') Duncan Williams box kick is gathered by Billy Vunipola. Munster come in over the top. Penalty Saracens.

    Munster drive them back at scrumtime. Tommy O'Donnell follows up and Munster win the penalty for holding on.

  • Munster scrum on Saracens 22
  • Munster 0 Saracens 0 (3')  Another great shove. CJ Stander to Scannell, then O'Mahony. Advantage Munster . . .

    All as an early 'Fields of Athenry' rings aloud around the Aviva.

  • Stander comes again, then O'Donnell. Munster hold them up however. And Munster come back for the penalty. Big opportunity there with numbers outside. Bleyendaal will go for the posts.
  • Munster 3 Saracens 0 (6') Bleyendaal slots it and Munster get the first points of the game. Saracens will be relieved.  
  • Munster 3 Saracens 0 (8') Bleyendaal kicks Munster back into the Saracens half from a penalty. After Chris Ashton tackles him in the air under an overhit box kick
  • Munster 3 Saracens 0 (10') Munster win the lineout but Keith Earls knocks on under yet another box kick. Owen Farrell clears his lines well, as does Zebo.

    Then Munster have a big let-off. Sean Maitland breaks out wide but his pass inside is behind Wigglesworth who knocks on with only green grass ahead of him

  • Munster 3 Saracens 0 (13')  Saracens scrum just inside their own half, after a Munster knock on. A better scrum from the reigning champions and they win the penalty. Farrell kicks them up to the Munster 10m line
  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (16')  George Kruis claims the lineout. Saracens penalty as Keith Earls fails to roll away. And Farrell takes the three points
  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (19')  Billy Vunipola being targetted by the Munster box kicks. He misjudges it and Munster drive Maitland out of touch.

    They win their lineout but Taute knocks on. Then Farrell is clattered by Williams as he tries to clear and Munster have it again inside the Saracens 22

  • Saracens turnover after another knock on, and this time Farrell clears to halfway
  • Another Saracens airbourne challenge, this time by Maitland on Andrew Conway. Referee has a word, gives a penalty. But no yellow card and the crowd is not happy
  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (22') Williams is tackled high breaking from the lineout maul. Advantage comes to nothing.  

    Yellow card Jackson Wray. Big moment

  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (23') Stander claims the lineout from the penalty kick. Tommy O'Donnell makes some yards. Munster just outside the Saracens 22
  • Munster move well inside the Saracens 22, but they concede the penalty as Niall Scannell holds on. Harsh decision
  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (26') Zebo gathers his own up and under, brilliantly. Then Blyendaal's kick comes off Maitland for a Munster lineout.  

    Billy Holland gathers but Saracens, under huge pressure in their 22 again, force another turnover. Munster knock-on

  • Great pressure from Munster on the Saracens put in. Munster gather the clearing kick and have it again on halfway
  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (30') Kick tennis ends in Munster lineout just inside the Saracens half.  
  • Munster 3 Saracens 3 (32') A poor cameo from Bleyendaal. His rubber kick is straight to a Saracens player. It comes back and bounces nicely for him, but as he looks to kick again he is ankle-tapped by Farrell and knocks on
  • Jackson Ray returns - and Saracens have not conceded in his absence. They have an attacking scrum on the Munster 10m line
  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (33') Saracens draw the penalty from the scrum. Kilcoyne hinging at the hips. Farrell gives Saracens the lead with a straightforward kick.  

    Somehow, Saracens ahead. For the first time

  • Billy Vunipola gathers the restart and breaks the first tackle, makes some yards and then kicks. Earls scrambles. Munster clear, but Saracens come again
  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (37')  Farrell takes out Earls without the ball, in the corner. Munster penalty. Peter O'Mahony claims the lineout on halfway, Itoje comes in from the side and Munster are all of a sudden back on the Saracens 22 with a lineout
  • Billy Holland does well to claim a loose throw, Munster driven back but they still have it
  • HT Munster 3 Saracens 6 - Munster looking tired and out of ideas, Jackson Wray comes in and rips the ball away for the turnover. Farrell kicks for the Munster corner but the chase is slow and it's out for half time.
  • Munster dominate possession and territory, and Saracens down to 14 for a time. But they somehow trail.

    Saracens defence has been excellent and Munster were beginning to look frustrated towards the end of the half.

    This game looks like going right to the wire, and Munster need to maintain their patience, and be more clinical. It's definitely there for them.

  • Both teams playing a very similar game here. A lot of box kicking, kick and chase, and the battle for territory has been key. Neither team can afford a slip in concentration. A real tactical battle.

    HT Munster 3 Saracens 6

  • Neither team has conceded a first half try in the Champions Cup so far this season. Will we get a second half try though? Or will kicking dominate the second half again. Let's see . . .
  • Teams out for the second half. 64 per cent first half possession for Munster. Can they push on in the second half and turn that into scores? No changes to either team
  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (41') Simon Zebo gathers the restart and Bleyendaal clears. Second half underway
  • Great long pass by Farrell to Maitland, who under pressure spills the ball. Munster scrum on their 10m line
  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (43') Williams' box kick is out on the full but Peter O'Mahony steals the following Saracens lineout. Munster crowd love that
  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (45') Saracens back on the Munster 22. Zebo cuts out the overlap, but does so with a knock on. Romain Poite however spotted an earlier Saracens knock on.

    Then, Mako Vunipola concedes a penalty in the Munster put in.

    Munster with a lineout maul from the penalty kick. They are just outside the Saracens 22

  • Poor Williams dink kick. Goode cuts across and claims the mark. Well read by the Saracens full back, but a waste from Munster
  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (50') Another Williams box kick out on the full. Billy Vunipola claims it with his foot stretched out of touch to make it so
  • For the second time in the game, Saracens knock on with the tryline clear in front. This time Maitland offloads to Ashton but he knocks on. Fortunate for Munster
  • Another huge let-off. George Kruis dummies and comes inside. But he fumbles and knocks on when reaching for the line.  

    Peter O'Mahony leaves the field for a HIA

  • Munster 3 Saracens 6 (52') Munster scrum under their posts. Stander breaks at the base and Bleyendaal's kick is underhit. Saracens have Munster under the cosh here
  • Munster 3 Saracens 13 (54')  Lineout is clean. Munster hold up the first Saracens drive for the line, but Mako Vunipola then inches over for the first try of the game. Owen Farrell converts
  • Francis Saili comes on for Taute. Maybe he can add a spark
  • Schalk Burger comes on. Saracens have real depth on their bench
  • Peter O'Mahony is off the field for a blood injury, not a HIA. He is expected to return
  • Munster 3 Saracens 13 (57') Saracens conceded a penalty for lifting the leg at the lineout. Munster with a strong maul off the lineout from that penalty.

    Williams can't get the ball outside in time, where Munster have numbers. And it's back for a penalty for offside.

    Bleyendaal misses a quite simple penalty however

  • Munster steal another Saracens lineout but concede a penalty for a collapsed maul
  • Munster 3 Saracens 13 (61') Munster drive Saracens back, but they knocked on and it's back for a Saracens scrum.  

    From which they win a penalty

  • Munster 3 Saracens 16 (64') Owen Farrell continues his 100 per cent kicking record in the game
  • Darren Sweetman on for Andrew Conway.

    Bad news for Munster though; Peter O'Mahony will not be returning to the play

  • Munster 3 Saracens 16 (65') Saracens take out the airbourne man again. Munster kick for the line and win the lineout. They are insdie the Saracens 22 with the crowd raising their voice again
  • 12 Munster phases, they are making slow progress.

    The attack ends in a poor Bleyendaal drop goal attempt.

  • Zebo takes the Saracens clearance on halfway, at serious pace. he spins off one tackle but then knocks on. Saracens with possession again in the Munster half
  • Munster 3 Saracens 23 (71')  Nail in the coffin? Farrell chip inside is won by Chris Wyles, who bundles Zebo out of the way and touches down.

    Farrell converts.

  • Munster 3 Saracens 23 (74') Saracens penalty for Munster offside. They opt for the posts instead of going for another try.

    Farrell nails his kick once again. He has certainly won the outhalf battle with Bleyendaal today

  • Brilliant break by Saili. Support is slow but he keeps going. Munster into the Saracens 22 again. This time Conway is bundled out of touch.
  • Munster 10 Saracens 26  (79') Munster turnover and come again. They tap and go and CJ Stander drives over for a consolation try.

  • Keatley converts and the Munster fans finally have something to cheer in this second half
  • Munster 10 Saracens 26 (80') Munster fans defiantly singing `Fields of Athenry', as a knock on allows Saracens to kick for touch and end the contest.
  • An outstanding defensive performance by Saracens, and clinical down the other end when it mattered.

    Munster fell apart without Peter O'Mahony. Trailing 6-3 when he left the field.

    Nonetheless, it was a step too far for Munster today. Saracens the better team and they will take beating!

  • Now it's up to Leinster to carry the Irish flag in Europe. They play Clermont tomorrow. You can read the preview for that match here.

    We'll be blogging that game live also. Until then, Munster v Saracens match report and reaction to follow on the site very soon.

    Thanks for joining us!  Munster back competing where they want to be, it's been a great season so far and still plenty left to fight for in the Pro12. But Saracens just had too much for them today.

    Munster 10 Saracens 26