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Dublin: 15 °C Saturday 17 August, 2019
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5 talking points after Munster crash out of Europe against Saracens

High error count, Saracens excel, blunt Munster and where was JJ?

Murray Kinsella reports from Allianz Park

MUNSTER WERE BEATEN 33-10 by Saracens at Allianz Park this afternoon. You can read our full match report here.

Munster’s error count

Munster themselves flagged how vital a low error count was going to be this week, given that so many of Sarries’ scores tend to come directly from the mistakes of their opponents.

Peter O'Mahony leads his dejected players off the field Peter O'Mahony leads his disappointed players off the pitch. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

No team goes out to make errors, but Munster’s were massively costly at Allianz Park. The opening score of the game came from Duncan Williams’ attempt to run the ball out of his own 22, while the first Saracens try came after Ian Keatley had kicked the pill dead.

The second try through Chris Aston followed a breakdown offence from Felix Jones. Elsewhere, Paul O’Connell was uncharacteristically loose in possession and others produced stifling errors.

Picking out individuals is not the point, rather that competing at this level in Europe means not making the kind of mistakes that allow the opposition easy ‘ins’ to making scoreboard gains.

Sarries on a different planet

In an overall sense, it was difficult to argue that Saracens’ 23-point winning margin did not tell the story of the game. In fact, a bonus-point try would have been well earned as Mark McCall’s men put in their strongest performance of the season.

Chris Wyles scores a try Chris Wyles was excellent for Sarries after bring drafted in late. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In contrast, Munster fell well below their own standards in a season that has been inconsistent. They are capable of far better than this showing when in form, but today Saracens were on a different level.

Even the basics of the game escaped Munster as they spilled possession, went off their feet at rucks and missed hits in open play. Discipline was poor for Munster too, but Saracens were impressively polished.

Saracens variety

Though much of the focus in Ireland will be on Munster’s performance, Saracens turned up in impressive fashion to score three tries and generally look more than comfortable in victory.

Billy Vunipola makes a break Big Billy Vunipola carried hard, passed cleverly and contributed at the set-piece. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

There was direct power in their display, with the Vunipolas and centre pair Brad Barritt and Marcelo Bosch carrying strongly, but they also offered some clever flourishes in attack through their use of screen passes behind the same men.

Tip-on passes from the forwards unsettled Munster’s front line defence, while the half-backs varied their kicking game well. As for the first Chris Ashton try, Saracens were not afraid burst away on the counter when the opportunity arose.

It was a varied performance from Mark McCall’s men, exactly the kind of showing Munster fans might have hoped for.

Munster blunted

Herein, we lead on from that directly above. Munster’s chasing of the game was largely predictable and rarely involving passing and width until they were desperate. Although there were limited glimpses, Foley’s men actually looked at their most threatening when the ball was moved wider.

Kelly Brown and Alistair Hargreaves tackle Paul O'Connell Paul O'Connell spills the ball under pressure. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

 

Felix Jones made one first-half break from deep wide on the left, while Andrew Conway surged down the right on an earlier occasion. Getting one-on-one attacking situations generally favoured Munster, but they created those chances too little.

Though Munster never enjoyed a true foothold in the Saracens’ 22, barring one early visit in the second half when Mako Vunipola won a superb turnover penalty and the Denis Hurley try, the issue of limited ambition with ball in hand reared its head again.

Where was JJ?

A moot point at this stage, but it was hard to understand why Munster didn’t send JJ Hanrahan into the game before the closing six minutes. Hurley did score a late try, but with Munster trailing so badly at half time, was there scope to bring in the Kerryman?

Paul O'Connell and Duncan Williams dejected after the game O'Connell and co. were left dejected at Allianz Park. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There were far greater collective issues for Foley’s men, and one player can’t decide a match, but surely Hanrahan’s creativity and line-breaking spark would have added something as Munster essentially chased the game from a very early stage?

Simon Zebo was a lone attacking spark on the left wing for Munster; would he have seen more touches with Hanrahan’s passing on in midfield?

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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