Rugby

Player Ratings As Munster Machine Grinds To A Halt Against Awesome Saracens

Player Ratings As Munster Machine Grinds To A Halt Against Awesome Saracens

Reporting from the Ricoh Arena. 

In 2017, they failed to fire a shot. It was meagre and mundane. Banal and basic.

Today, Munster mustered more. Just not enough.

The arc is rising but not fully aloft. There is work done, but more to do. In particular, their attacking framework has proved lacking.

Rugby is a simple game really. For all the talk about pendulum defences and phase-play platforms, score more tries than your opposition and you'll win, more often than not. This season in Europe Munster failed to do that three times. All three ended in the absence of victory.

Defensively, they are a machine. The first half saw a swift exchange of penalties for various infractions, with Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander both guilty early on. Yet by the half-hour mark Munster were level thanks to a brilliant Conor Murray penalty. Owen Farrell made it 12-9 just before half-time after the TMO intervened for an intentional knock-on.

But after initially grinding Saracens began pounding. Flanker Mike Rhodes eventually dotted down after big carriers punched holes in the Irish province's defence.

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Johann Van Graan had the bench near empty before the hour mark and it instigated a comeback of sorts. Darren Sweetnam, the last-ditch inclusion for the second time running, touched down after an against the head scrum success.

But while this Saracens team bend, they do not break. Munster's final firepower could only do so much and in the end that was the difference. It finished 32-16.

15. Mike Haley - 5

munster player ratings

Failed to claim two high balls in a row at the very start of the game, both resulted in a knock-on. Owen Farrell loves raining ball down on top of the full-back any time he plays an Irish team and tormented Haley again shortly after. He can't be expected to catch every ball but at the very least should judge when to compete, often reaching out for a ball he'd no reach of catching and thus knocking on.

Showed great temperament to bounce back and win a Munster scrum with a catch just after the half-hour mark. Then knocked on yet another just after the break. A frustrating afternoon.

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14. Andrew Conway -  6

This was a game fought out in the sky and Conway soared. Firstly, he took a brilliant catch overhead on his own try line with Williams barrelling down on top of him. Followed it up with savage work from the re-start to knock it back on Munster's side.

The problems lay on the other side of the ball. Two successful tackles and four missed ones tells its own tale. A lapse in concentration saw him knock on in the final five minutes.

13. Chris Farrell - 7

A powerhouse in defence who just consumes whatever comes near him. Munster never managed to make enough space for either centre to thrive going forward. Averaged two yards a carry.

12. Rory Scannell - 7 

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munster player ratings

Brilliant work at the breakdown defensively and got every inch out of his kick to the corner shortly after. Then caught the subsequent line-out over the top and took a strong carry to the gain line.  Some clever moments standing in as first receiver and using his passing ability to go wide. Superb drift and cover to claim a potentially difficult grubber.

11. Darren Sweetnam - 7 

Put under huge pressure defensively but proved safe as houses. On the other side of the ball took his try brilliantly after blasting down the outside.

10. Tyler Bleyendaal - 6

The 2017 fixture surely haunts the New Zealander. It brought a remarkable rise to a hefty halt and those are heights he has failed to reach since. Started comfortably kicking his first penalty. Never really got a foothold after that. Did not fire or falter, middling. However, Joey Carbery was sorely missed.

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9. Conor Murray - 7

His box-kicking radar is well and truly back, readily landing the ball just inside the sideline and forcing Williams and Strettle to try and avoid touch. Nailed a monster penalty to draw Munster level shortly after. His contribution to Munster's try shouldn't be underrated, reacting quickly to hustle and fire the ball wide accurately.

1. Dave Kilcoyne - 7

Brilliant variation early on both with neat hands and strong carrying. Racked up a huge 17 tackles. Rock solid in the scrum. A man bang in form and certainly consolidating his World Cup spot. Only concern came at the end with a knock that forced him off.

2. Niall Scannell - 6 

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His darts are just deadly. 100% from the line-out. Doesn't offer a huge amount going forward but plays to his strengths. Replaced by Rhys Marshall early on in the second half.

3. John Ryan - 6

There was an impressive moment midway through the first half when Ryan burst Farrell and managed to climb back up to compete at the following breakdown. Not content with that, he quickly followed it up with a thundering hit on Jamie George. Replace by Stephen Archer shortly after half-time.

4. Jean Kleyn - 7

An all-action display on both sides of the ball. One of the very few pack members who did not infringe in the entire game.

5. Tadhg Beirne - 5.5

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Entirely neutralised both at the breakdown and in attack. On top of that, the least tackles of any Munster forward bar John Ryan.

6. Peter O'Mahony - 7

The captain has been, without question, Munster's best player this season. Another fully committed display here that saw him rack up 17 tackles and run the line-out expertly. Stayed trying til the dying minute.

7. Jack O'Donoghue - 6

Fully vindicated getting the nod at openside. His tackling work rate was ridiculous, leading the line with 10 overall. More than that, it was the quality of tackle. Twice chopped Vunipola at the knees to neutralise the big ball carrier.

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8. CJ Stander - 6 

Plenty of hard carries without much end result. In many ways he embodies much of Munster's current situation. Huge heart and application but just needs a little refining to fully flourish on a day like today.

Replacements: 6

Stephen Archer and Rhys Marshall came on early on and helped Munster claw back a consolation try. JJ Hanrahan was lively and kicked expertly. Dan Goggin carried diligently without ever providing what Munster lacked. Jeremy Loughman was strong at the breakdown after replacing an injured Dave Kilcoyne. Alby Mathewson and Arnoa Botha kept the fight firing until the end.

A performance that fell someway in between awful and outstanding. Closer to the former, but further ahead than 2017. They were up against an outstanding Lions-ridden Saracens side. Ultimately a cruel reminder of where this team is right now, and where they need to go.