"It was Munster's fault" - Saracens coach on 'derogatory comment' that sparked brawl 3 years ago

"It was Munster's fault" - Saracens coach on 'derogatory comment' that sparked brawl


"They were sparring for the first 50 minutes but now the gloves are off." - Donncha O'Callaghan


Munster Saracens delivered the goods again, but a moment of magic from Billy Vunipola sealed a feisty contest.

Munster kept European champions Saracens from breaching their tryline for 144 minutes but Vunipola's carry and offload unlocked the Irish province's defence and was the beginning of the end.

Having given away three penalties in succession, Saracens backed their scrum and left it to Vunipola to peel off the back and gun for the line. Such is his potency that four Munster players were drawn towards him but he offloaded high and got the ball away to Sean Maitland, who scored in the corner.


Owen Farrell missed his touchline conversion so it was 8-6 with 14 minutes to play. Munster pressed for the winner but Maitland rushed Keith Earls on a Munster attack and forced an error. He broke upfield and Saracens piled in behind him.

Munster were back on their own tryline and battling desperately but the earlier injury losses of Tadhg Beirne and John Ryan meant their pack had been through a rake of work and they were flagging. No better man, then, to thunder the ball in from close range than Mako Vunipola. Farrell converted at it was 15-6.

Still, Munster had an opportunity to secure a losing bonus point when Farrell hit JJ Hanrahan late after the Munster 10 got his pass away. Perhaps Hanrahan did not fancy another shot at the sticks after missing a relatively straightforward penalty around 56 minutes. It meant Munster kicked for the line and even though they won their attacking lineout they would be turned over inside the Sarries' 22.


That was their last decent chance at taking something from a game that they had led 6-3 from the 44th to 64th minute. Saracens closed the tie out and it means Munster will have to beat Racing 92 (away) and Ospreys (home) next month to reach the knock-out stages.

Earlier in the game, Hanrahan's missed penalty seemed to buoy the Saracens players. It came after a mass brawl that had been sparked when Saracens hooker Jamie George and Munster medic, Dr Jamie Kearns,  exchanged words on the sideline.

George turned back to have another (verbal) go at the Munster staff member before James Cronin and Jack O'Donoghue pushed him away, sparking an all-in scenario. [UPDATE: Dr Kearns has since apologised for his role in the incident].

Credit: BT Sport

What was supposed to be a Saracens lineout became a Munster penalty as referee Pascal Gauzere took exception to Owen Farrell running from the 10-metre line to get involved in the brawl.

Speaking to BT Sport soon after, Saracens coach Alex Sanderson commented:

"I don't want to point fingers but it was Munster's fault!

"I think their doctor, or someone on the sideline, said something derogatory to Jamie (George) about his weight. It didn't go down so well and there were a couple of words exchanged there and the big boys came in. I don't think it was too serious; a bit of a wrestle and excitement levels going over the top."

Hanrahan had the chance to make it 9-3 but he narrowly missed and that seemed to boost the Saracens players. They roared back into the contest and had the last couple of laughs.


For Munster, they have it all to do if they are to make the last eight. Saracens live to fight another day.

OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Mako Vunipola (Saracens)


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Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are joined in the House of Rugby studio by Jerry Flannery to look back on all the latest Champions Cup action. Rory Best also drops in for a chat with Jerry.