Munster fail to show up as error count proves costly at Saracens

Head coach Anthony Foley bemoaned his side’s inability to get into space at Allianz Park.

YESTERDAY’S MATCH PROGRAMME at Allianz Park included Saracens chairman Nigel Wray’s welcome for the “hordes of Munster,” whom the millionaire was certain would arrive in their thousands.

Indeed the Red Army did turn out in impressive numbers at the north London stadium, although Wray wrote that they would be “clad in that familiar orange.”

Ian Keatley dejected after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A case of mistaken identity, colour blindness or whatever it was, Wray appeared not to know exactly which band of supporters was heading his way.

Meanwhile, the Munster team that turned up on the pitch could have been mistaken as imposters such was the weakness of their performance on the biggest day of their 2014/15 season.

Pre-match, we felt that Munster would at least push Sarries in defeat, even without the vital playmaking and defensive influence of injured scrum-half Conor Murray. As it transpired, a 23-point winning margin was entirely a reflection of the game itself.

Mark McCall’s side were impressive in mixing their game up; combining direct ball carries with clever tip-on passes, screen plays and a broad approach to kicking.

In contrast, Munster served up a huge error count; dropping the pill under pressure, kicking poorly, missing one-on-one tackles and having a number of set-piece issues.

It came from fellas dropping ball – execution,” said Munster head coach Anthony Foley afterwards. “We weren’t putting them under pressure and getting into space. Unfortunately, it worked during the week and it didn’t out on the pitch there.”

Munster insisted their preparation had been clean and positive, underlining that they had come into this game with confidence in their ability to upset the odds at Allianz Park.

But nothing they tried worked, even if their brief forays into wider channels appeared to suggest that Saracens could be breached in those areas of the pitch, particularly when the likes of Felix Jones and Andrew Conway could be sent into one-on-one contests.

Anthony Foley dejected after the game during the press conference Foley was understandably disappointed after the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The ball just couldn’t get there often enough, which begs the question of why Munster left it so late to spring JJ Hanrahan from the bench – surely the very epitome of a ‘Plan B’ player who could have potentially offered something different.

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“There was obviously consequences there,” said Foley in relation to Hanrahan’s late arrival.

“We thought that in the second half… we had a conversation ten or 15 minutes in. We felt that we were defending and we were defending well and we hadn’t a lot of ball at that stage.

So all you are doing is putting a player out to tackle and defend which didn’t make sense, but once we started getting the ball we had a look to expose them and get more space but that didn’t happen either.”

It turned out that inside centre Denis Hurley scored Munster’s consolation try after a break from captain Peter O’Mahony, and realistically one personnel change wasn’t going to make the difference.

This game was lost in the error count, breakdown failures, set-piece issues and all the other collective aspects. One more dead rubber against Sale next weekend, and Munster’s European season is at its end.

It’s back to the drawing board thereafter.

-Originally published 05.30

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