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'They decided to go to the corner and unfortunately it didn't work out for us'

Johann van Graan says Munster’s trip to face Racing 92 in Paris next month is now a knock-out tie.

MUNSTER BOSS JOHANN van Graan said his side’s clash with Racing 92 in Paris in January is now do-or-die for their European hopes after a 15-6 defeat away to Saracens. 

The Irish province’s head coach also backed his players over their decision to go to touch with a late penalty at Allianz Park rather than kick at goal in a bid to claim a losing bonus point.

jack-odonoghue-dejected Munster were left dejected at Allianz Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster were turned over after opting to go down the line, leaving them with nothing to show from a big effort against the Heineken Champions Cup holders.

With regular captain Peter O’Mahony ruled out due to a groin injury he sustained in the warm-up, stand-in skipper CJ Stander and his fellow leaders opted to chase a try at the death.

While Munster are still second in Pool 4 with two games left, they must now win in Paris on Sunday 12 January in order to progress into the knock-out stages.

“You always back the decisions on the pitch, they decided to go to the corner and unfortunately it didn’t work out for us,” said van Graan post-match when asked if the decision had been made by the coaching team or the players.

“But there’s a lot of rugby left in this pool, the fact Saracens didn’t get four tries today means it’s 17 points [Racing], 11 [Munster], 10 [Saracens], if I’m not mistaken.

“The Paris game becomes a knock-out game for us now. We need to go and win in Paris.”

Munster were not helped by losing O’Mahony beforehand, while Tadhg Beirne departed in the 11th minute with a serious-looking leg injury, tighthead John Ryan was forced off in the first half, and wing Andrew Conway suffered a head injury in the second half.

“I haven’t spoken to him but it looks pretty serious,” said van Graan of Beirne. “Losing John Ryan, which looks also like a pretty serious calf injury and losing Peter in the warm-up and Andrew Conway to a HIA was tough to take.

“It’s difficult to say,” continued van Graan when asked about the severity of O’Mahony’s issue. “He pulled out, he had started the warm-up pretty well but pulled out with his groin.

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keith-earls-dejected-after-the-game Munster left without anything to show for a big effort. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s very frustrating to lose your captain in the warm-up, especially for a game like this. Then to lose Tadhg, your other loose forward, it made the lineout very interesting from our side.

“Well done to Billy Holland for adapting, it was something we went hard at last weekend and we were down two men in the lineout and obviously in the poach threat as well, that’s two of our best poachers.

“But look, that’s rugby – you’ve got to adapt and I thought the guys that came on did all they could.

“It’s disappointing, we came here to win. We were in the game for large parts of it, but unfortunately in the last 20 minutes they were applying pressure in our 22 and they went for multiple scrums and scored the try that put us under huge pressure

“I felt their bench made a big impact and we lost Pete in the warm-up, Tadhg pretty early, John Ryan pretty early… we were quite thin there at the end.

“It was an incredibly tough game of rugby against the champions in their back yard, but I’m incredibly proud of our guys.”

Van Graan insisted the main feeling won’t be one of regret for Munster as they now head into the Guinness Pro14 inter-provincial derbies.

“I won’t say regret, I’ll say disappointment,” he said. “We came here to win and we prepared really well. It was a massive battle, you could see it out there with two very good rugby teams. Unfortunately, we came up short.” 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Allianz Park

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