Owen Farrell Injury-ravaged Munster miss golden opportunity as Saracens reignite European challenge

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Owen Farrell Sean Maitland scored Saracens' opening try in the 15-6 win over Munster. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
Sean Maitland scored Saracens’ opening try in the 15-6 win over Munster. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

On paper, this looked like a huge test for Munster but the way the game unfolded it developed into a golden opportunity they failed to take.

The champions may have had a host of big guns back, but they were rattled midway through the second-half having made a number of uncharacteristic errors.

But Munster – who lost Peter O’Mahony in the warm-up and three more Ireland internationals by the 53rd minute – failed to take the chances that presented themselves and, eventually, succumbed to an increasingly ferocious effort from the home side, who brought themselves firmly into the Pool 4 picture with two rounds to go.

This defeat means Sarries edge the head-to-head over the two games and Munster must win away to Racing 92 in round five to have any hope of a return to the quarter-finals. It was always going to be a tough day for Munster and things got even more difficult when they lost their skipper to a groin injury in the warm-up, forcing Johann van Graan into a late re-shuffle as Jack O’Donoghue came into the team.

CJ Stander took over the captaincy, but it was his opposite number Billy Vunipola who started with intent as Owen Farrell opened the scoring with a penalty after a Munster offside. Munster then suffered another blow when Tadhg Beirne went down after a clever carry and needed oxygen as he was stretchered off with an ankle injury.

Despite their re-jigged back-row, Munster dominated the subsequent scrum but referee Pascal Gauzere somehow punished O’Donoghue for slipping his bind Saracens went to the corner, forcing two maul penalties before the Waterford man managed to get in on the ball to force a crucial turnover with help from Billy Holland.

When James Cron

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