We’re live from Allianz Park as Munster’s European campaign hangs by a thread.
IT’S MAKE-OR-BREAK time for Munster in the European Champions Cup as they travel to London to face Saracens at Allianz Park.
Anthony Foley’s men know nothing less than a victory from their penultimate game of Pool 1 will be enough to give them a chance of progressing.
It’s backs-to-the-wall cup rugby but this is the sort of scenario Munster often thrive in. We should be set for a fascinating afternoon.
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Good afternoon and welcome to The42‘s live coverage of the heavyweight clash between Saracens and Munster from Allianz Park in London. The Irish province have reached the final four of Europe’s premier competition in each of the last two seasons but they’re in a precarious position in Pool 1 after back-to-back defeats to Clermont before Christmas.
The task for Anthony Foley’s side couldn’t be any clearer — win or bust. Kick-off is at 1pm.
We’re up and running at Allianz Park and it’s a good start for Munster who steal a Saracens lineout.
Apologies for our late arrival, folks. Some gremlins in the system here at The42 HQ have no respect for European Champions Cup rugby.
David Strettle was a late withdrawal for Sarries before the game.
Saracens 3-0 Munster
First blood to Saracens as Owen Farrell slots over a penalty for the home side in the ninth minute.
Munster scrum under huge pressure in the Saracens half and they’re penalised, much to the delight of the home fans.
The Red Army are out in force in North London.
Approaching the midway point of the first half and it’s a Munster scrum just inside their own 22. That one looks better.
Ambitious kick by Keatley deep into Saracens territory unfortunately goes a little too deep. “A beautiful kick,” according to Brian O’Driscoll. Unlucky. Saracens back on the attack.
TRY! Saracens 8-0 Munster
Saracens carve Munster open wide on the left and Chris Wyles gets in for the game’s opening try.
Saracens 10-0 Munster
Farrell makes no mistake with the conversion.
Simon Zebo taken out in the air under a high ball by Chris Ashton but the England wing escapes unpunished.
Munster desperate for a response.
The Munster scrum is really struggling here.
Big blow for Munster as CJ Stander is forced off with an ankle injury. Dave O’Callaghan comes in to the back-row.
Saracens 13-0 Munster
Saracens extend their lead with another Farrell penalty just before the half-hour mark.
Munster could do with a score before the interval and they’ve won a penalty off the scrum. Keatley to go for the posts.
Saracens 13-3 Munster
Munster are on the board as Ian Keatley slots over that penalty nicely.
TRY! Saracens 18-3 Munster
Sarries with a quick-tap penalty, Wyles deftly kicks the ball into the path of Ashton, and he applies the finishing touch for his side’s second try.
Saracens 20-3 Munster
Farrell again makes no mistake with the boot. This is now a commanding lead as half-time approaches.
Another Saracens penalty on the verge of the break. Can Farrell give his side a 20-point lead at halfway?
Saracens 23-3 Munster
Farrell does it again. 13 points from his right boot in this first half.
HT Saracens 23-3 Munster
That was a pretty disappointing first-half for Munster and they’ve got a massive task on their hands in this second 40-minute period to get back in the game. Are things looking bleak, or can they produce another memorable come-back?
Our man Murray Kinsella is taking in the action at Allianz Park:
“A disastrous first half for Munster, who have been really poor so far. Missed tackles, kicks out on the full, poor shape in D, off their feet at ruck-time and spilled ball in attack. It’s an absolute mountain to climb and looking very unlikely now. Saracens have been really impressive to be fair, varying their game nicely with strong carrying, screen passes out the back door, some clever kicking and lovely counter-attacki
Munster fans ain’t happy, and understandably so.
Paul O’Connell said earlier this week that this season could very well be his last for Munster. Are we witnessing the end for the great man in European club competition? Will Munster have anything to play for against Sale Sharks? They’ve got 40 minutes to salvage the campaign.
Munster are back out on the field doing some shuttle runs, bizarrely enough. They’re ready to hit the ground running in this second-half.
We’re about to resume at Allianz Park. Any hope for Munster? Is there anything to be said for another mass?
Munster edging towards the Sarries line but the hosts’ defence stands firm to win the penalty for not releasing.
Billy Vunipola has been causing a lot of problems for Munster… and Brian O’Driscoll, who can’t seem to work out how to pronounce his name.
Two Vunipolas in one passage of play. Tough times for Drico.
Keith Earls is in for Munster in place of Pat Howard. Munster could really do with some magic from the man from Limerick here.
A lot of sloppy errors from the visitors. “It’s just so un-Munster at the moment”, Brian O’Driscoll says on BT Sport. Lawrence Dallaglio adds: “If Saracens get one more score here its game over.”
Munster gathering some momentum and territory, but again they’re unable to go through the phases. Saracens force an error and Munster are penalised. Fourteen minutes played in the second-half. How does Anthony Foley get his side back in to this?
Saracens 26-3 Munster
Seventeen minutes into the second half and we have our first score of this period as Owen Farrell splits the posts with his fourth penalty of the afternoon.
Saracens are knocking at the door for another try. Unfortunately for Munster fans, there’s no sign of a revival here. It’s mostly one-way traffic and you’d worry about the floodgates opening if Sarries manage to get over again.
The Saracens number eight has been a wrecking ball today.
Eusebio Guinazu and Stephen Archer have replaced Duncan Casey and BJ Botha in the Munster front-row as Anthony Foley looks for more success at scrum-time.
Another penalty for Saracens but for the first time today, Farrell’s radar is dodgy. He sends it off to the left of the target.
Fifteen minutes remaining in North London. Munster need a miracle.
Munster are down to fourteen men for the next ten minutes. James Cronin has been sent to the sin bin — for “tackling without the ball” according to referee Roman Poite.
Munster’s frustrations bubbling over.
There’s been a bit of a scuffle, with Peter O’Mahony and Jacques Burger at the centre of it. It looks fairly innocuous but Roman Poite asks for the assistance of the TMO. No one is reprimanded though, and rightly so.
TRY! Saracens 26-8 Munster
Brilliant break from Peter O’Mahony opens up the Saracens defence and Denis Hurley eventually goes over for a Munster try.
Saracens 26-10 Munster
Keatley with the conversion for Munster. Still more than two converted tries between the teams and eight minutes remain. Too little, too late?
The captain hasn’t given up hope just yet.
TRY! Saracens 31-10 Munster
Game most certainly over now. Your favourite winger Chris Ashton with his second try of the game.
Saracens 33-10 Munster
Farrell adds the conversion. Saracens have five minutes to chase the bonus point. Roman Poite tripped over a Munster player and injured himself in the build-up to that try so Christophe Berdos will referee the closing stages of this game.
JJ Hanrahan has come on for Ian Keatley but it’s a bit late for the Northampton-bound man to make much of an impact. Ronan O’Mahony and Billy Holland have also replaced Simon Zebo and Dave Foley.
Two minutes left on the clock. Munster are about to lose three successive European games for the first time.
“Saracens are having so much fun out here, they’d gladly go for another 80 minutes.”
Rub it in why don’t ya, BOD? O’Driscoll gives Billy Vunipola the man-of-the-match award, unsurprisingly.
FT: Saracens 33-10 Munster
For only the second time in 17 seasons, Munster won’t be moving on to the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier competition. A disappointing day for Anthony Foley’s team in London and their campaign is over. Saracens were impressive, however, and they’ve given themselves a chance of moving on to the last eight as they get ready to travel to Clermont next weekend.
Where do Munster go from here, Reds fans?
Murray Kinsella was at Allianz Park for The42 this afternoon. Read his account of the action HERE.
Thanks for joining us for today’s liveblog. It wasn’t the result Munster wanted, unfortunately. Here’s the proof that their European Champions Cup campaign won’t be progressing beyond the pool stages…