European Rugby Champions Cup: Munster beat Saracens

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Munster's Ian Keatley kicks a drop goal
Keatley kicked nine points to help lift Munster to the top of Pool 1
Munster (3) 14
Try: Kilcoyne Pens: Keatley 2 Drop-goal: Keatley
Saracens (3) 3
Pen: Farrell

Munster took advantage of a yellow card to Saracens prop Rhys Gill in the European Rugby Champions Cup to defeat last year's beaten finalists.

In steady drizzle at Thomond Park the first half was desperately tight, with Ian Keatley and Owen Farrell penalties making it 3-3 at the break.

With Gill in the sin-bin for a tip tackle on CJ Stander, Munster scored the only try through David Kilcoyne.

Keatley added a penalty and a drop-goal to send them top of Pool 1.

The rain could not put a dampener on the mood at a sold-out Thomond Park and Munster's red army of fans, reared on a diet of classic European encounters, created a vibrant, raucous atmosphere.

With every Munster kick roared on as it came down from the heavens and every tackle by the hosts producing a similarly passionate response, Saracens were always going to be up against it.

But, having been under the cosh for most of the first half, they were actually on top when Wales prop Gill upended Munster number eight Stander at a ruck with half an hour to play.

He was sent to the sin-bin - and with him went Saracens' hopes.

Keatley had given the hosts the lead but he had a poor night off the kicking tee, landing just two out of six, and a reply from Farrell - who looked off the pace on his first start for several weeks following injury - meant the sides could not be separated at half-time.

Saracens came racing out of the blocks in the second half and with England discard Chris Ashton buzzing around to good effect they looked the more likely winners, but Gill lost his discipline and two-time European champions Munster pounced.

Keatley's second penalty of the night edged the hosts into a lead they would not relinquish, despite an astonishing decision by the television match official to deny winger Andrew Conway a try in the corner.

Fortunately it did not turn out to be costly as Munster promptly launched a shift drive from a line-out and Kilcoyne went barrelling over at the back of a maul.

Keatley could not convert but with the momentum having swung firmly in Munster's favour the fly-half popped over a drop-goal to put them out of sight.

Munster: Jones, Conway, Smith, Hurley, Zebo, Keatley, Murray; Cronin, Casey, Botha, Foley, O'Connell, O'Mahony (capt), O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Guinazu, Kilcoyne, Archer, Holland, Copeland, Williams, Hanrahan, Van den Heever

Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Bosch, Brad Barritt (capt), Strettle, Farrell, De Kock; Barrington, George, Du Plessis, Kruis, Hamilton, Brown, Fraser, Vunipola.

Replacements: Spurling, Gill, Johnston, Botha, Wray, Wigglesworth, Hodgson, Taylor.

Yellow card: Gill (51).

Attendance: 25,600

Referee: Jerome Garces (France).