Stander stars as Munster dent Saracens' title hopes
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Coach Mark McCall made nine changes as Saracens’ hopes of defending their European Champions Cup title were dealt a blow after Munster beat them 10-3 on Saturday.
The English champions, who have been fined and deducted points in the Premiership for salary cap irregularities, rested England’s Owen Farrell as well as Billy and Mako Vunipola for the bonus point loss.
It leaves them third in the Pool Four standings, five points behind the Irish province and six behind Racing 92 before hosting the two-time winners next Saturday.
Munster loose forward CJ Stander was again the star of the show with warrior-like performance to pick up the man of the match award. Stander made 17 tackles and had 19 carries during the 69 minutes he was on the field.
In the other game in the group the French club hammered 14-man Ospreys 40-19 to remain top thanks to a bonus point for scoring four or more tries.
On the Irish west coast, the only points of a tense opening quarter came from a JJ Hanrahan penalty on 18 minutes.
The hosts thought they had stretched their advantage four minutes later but Chris Farrell’s try was ruled out by the video referee.
Captain Peter O’Mahony scored the only try of proceedings on the half hour mark, crashing over from short-range as Hanrahan slotted the easy conversion.
Ben Spencer kicked a late penalty and the Irish side led 10-3 at the break.
Scrumhalf Spencer wasted a chance to close the gap to four points, missing a 44th minute penalty as the wind inside a packed Thomond Park pushed his effort wide.
In a sluggish final 30 minutes, the home side held on as any attempts to play attractive were hampered by the damp conditions.
When time was up, Munster had kicked the ball out for a crucial win but TMO was consulted and Arno Botha was issued a red card as a result for a dangerous tackle.
That gave Saracens one last chance of salvaging a draw but the line-out was stolen by Jack O’Donoghue and that was enough to give Munster the victory.
The two sides will clash again in Round Four next Saturday at Allianz Park.
Red Card: Arno Botha (Munster, 80 + 2)
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 John Ryan, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Sammy Arnold, 23 Arno Botha.
Saracens: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Kapeli Pifeleti, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Joel Kpoku, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Max Malins, 23 Nick Tompkins.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pierre Brousset (France), Vincent Blasco Baqué (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)
AFP and @ChampionsCup