Saracens 15-6 Munster: Champions Cup holders keep quarter-final hopes alive
By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 14/12/19 7:36pm
Saracens scored two late tries to defeat Munster 15-6 at Allianz Park and keep their Champions Cup hopes alive.
The defending champions were frustrated for large spells by Munster's resilient and organised defence but two moments of quality from the Vunipola brothers got them over the line.
A brilliant offload from Billy Vunipola teed up Sean Maitland for the game's first try on 66 minutes, before Mako Vunipola drove over from close range to keep the Londoners in quarter-final contention.
The final score was harsh on Munster, who overcame three early injuries in their pack to lead heading into the final quarter.
The visitors were forced into their first change prior to kick-off when skipper Peter O'Mahony was a late withdrawal, and they lost another international flanker after 10 minutes when Tadhg Beirne was stretchered off after twisting his knee in a tackle.
By that stage Saracens had moved in front, Owen Farrell punishing a handling error by Mike Haley to open the scoring with a penalty.
It was a half where defences dominated, with scoring chances at a premium, but Munster managed to draw level on 25 minutes after their best spell with ball in hand.
It took a brilliant last-ditch tackle by Max Malins to deny Andrew Conway in the corner, but play was brought back for an earlier infringement by Saracens and JJ Hanrahan kicked the penalty.
Hanrahan's kick coincided with Munster's third injury setback as prop John Ryan limped off.
Hanrahan slotted his second three-pointer early in the second half to put Munster 6-3 up but the fly-half was off-target with another attempt after Farrell was penalised for getting involved in a fracas that was sparked by an altercation between Jamie George and a Munster medic.
Having been frustrated for long spells, Saracens finally turned a spell of pressure into points.
They won three penalties in a row in front of the Munster posts but declined a shot at goal and opted for scrums. And it was a case of third time lucky as Billy Vunipola peeled off the base and threw a lovely offload to put Maitland over in the corner.
They scored a second six minutes later when Mako Vunipola powered over the line and Farrell kicked the conversion to deny Munster a losing bonus point.