Thursday 26 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Gutted
'We got beaten by the better team' - No excuses from van Graan's Munster
Johann van Graan and Peter O’Mahony praised the quality of Saracens.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Ricoh Arena

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan fronted up honestly after his team bowed out at the semi-final stage of the Heineken Champions Cup, offering no excuses and stating that they will be back again next season.

Van Graan gave strong praise to Saracens for their convincing 32-16 victory in Coventry, while expressing his deep disappointment at losing in front of another impressive travelling Munster crowd.

Conor Murray dejected after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Munster lost a seventh consecutive semi-final in the Heineken Champions Cup. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It was clear that the injured Joey Carbery and Keith Earls were missed by Munster as they struggled to create anything with their limited amount of possession in the face of the Saracens onslaught, but van Graan didn’t touch on their absence.

Nor did he bite when asked about some of the refereeing decisions from Jerome Garces as Munster came out on the wrong side of the 10-8 penalty count.

“Firstly, we weren’t good enough on the day,” said the Munster boss.

“We got beaten by the better team, so no excuses from our side. They’ve been playing some fantastic rugby, both in the Premiership and in Europe. They’ve blown everybody out of this competition at this stage.

“From our side, we gave it all we have got. We planned well throughout this whole campaign. There were some fantastic victories and we see getting to another semi-final as a huge positive.

“We didn’t come here today to lose but in sport a lot of times you’ve got to look your opposition in the eye and, as I said to Mark [McCall] afterwards, ‘It was tough up until half-time and then you guys were just much better in the next 30 minutes.’

“You’ve got to concede that you weren’t as good as the opposition on the day.

“We’ll be back. We’ll be back in Europe next year and we’ll have to get past the pool stage to get into the play-offs again, that will be the first thing.

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“This is a competition we as a club love and a special mention to all of our fans who travel all over the world and back this team through massive wins and games when we can’t get the result. As a club, we’ll move forward.”

Peter O'Mahony dejected after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Munster captain Peter O'Mahony after his side's defeat. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony cut a similarly dejected figure alongside his coach post-match and summed up how his team weren’t able to keep pace with Saracens after trailing just 12-9 at the half-time break.

“They played a lot of rugby in our half,” said O’Mahony. “They had a lot of ball. We felt good coming in at half-time. It was a difficult half, but three points.

“We did our homework. They scored a lot of points in the first 20 of the second half and we struggled with them. That was probably the turning of the game. We got back to [trailing by] nine points but gave away a couple of penalties.

“I’m not saying discipline was the reason we lost; it certainly wasn’t. The areas we conceded the penalties and Owen [Farrell] is going to knock them over.

“Eight out of nine [kicks, by Farrell], it’s going to be difficult and it certainly was out there. We aren’t making any complaints.

“They probably played to their game plan. They are big men and they are hard to stop when they are going forward. You’ve players like Owen and [Alex] Goode pulling strings either side of the ball, so it’s hard to know which direction they are going.

“Added to the fact you’ve guys like Mako and Billy [Vunipola], guys like [Will] Skelton coming on just giving you momentum which is hard to stop. So that 15 minutes after half-time just felt like wave after wave. They played very well.”

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