European Champions Cup: Saracens 33-10 Munster

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Mako Vunipola (left) looks on as younger brother Billy takes on Munster single-handedly
Billy Vunipola combined huge power with some silky offloads on Saturday
Saracens (23) 33
Tries: Wyles, Ashton 2 Cons: Farrell 3 Pens: Farrell 4
Munster (3) 10
Tries: Hurley Cons: Keatley Pens: Keatley

Saracens set up a winner-takes-all match in their final Pool One encounter away to Clermont as the Londoners left Munster's Champions Cup hopes hanging by the finest of threads.

Sarries powered into a 23-3 half-time lead as Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton scored tries and Owen Farrell kicked two conversions and three penalties.

Sarries continued to dominate but only added a Farrell penalty.

Munster scored a converted Denis Hurley try before Ashton completed his brace.

It was the power of the Saracens pack that was the key on a crisp day in north London, with the hosts dominating Munster in the scrum while home number eight Billy Vunipola reminded the England selectors of his ability with a terrific performance.

European Champions Cup Pool One

At times the near 20-stone Vunipola looked like he was playing human skittles and his ability to get Saracens on the front foot was hugely impressive.

The Londoners played their usual territorial game, kicking deep and looking to pressurise Munster, and only carrying the ball once they were inside the visitors' half.

But they failed to score more than one try in the second period, costing them a four-try bonus point.

Both of Sarries' first-half tries were well-executed, with Vunipola's dummy run creating the space for Ashton and Alex Goode to send Wyles over wide on the left for the first.

The second came as they threw caution to the wind and attacked from a tap penalty on halfway.

Wyles raced down the left and his precise kick inside enabled Ashton to win the race and touch the ball down.

Chris Ashton scores his second try for Saracens against Munster
Chris Ashton went over for two tries as he continued his excellent try scoring record in Europe

Farrell converted both tries and also knocked over three penalties for the hosts, and Ian Keatley's solitary reply was all Munster deserved.

The visitors came out after half-time in more determined fashion and a sparkling Simon Zebo break from deep set up the platform for Munster to hammer away, but the Saracens defence was rock solid.

The hosts dominated the next half hour but could only manage to add a Farrell penalty as the Munster line somehow held firm.

And, with Munster's James Cronin in the sin bin, it was the visitors who suddenly looked the more dangerous side, with combative captain Peter O'Mahony's dummy and break creating the chance for Hurley to plunge over from close range.

However, any thoughts of a fightback by the two-time champions were quickly extinguished as Ashton added his second try to ensure Saracens travel to France knowing victory will send them into the last eight.

Saracens rugby director McCall:

"Billy Vunipola was phenomenal today, he was a force of nature in attack and defence, but I thought we had outstanding performances right through the group.

"There is a small sense of frustration that we didn't get the fourth try [and bonus point], but I thought it was a really good performance.

"We are in a position where we go to Clermont, and if we win the match, we win the pool. That is what our intention is going to be."

Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Du Plessis, Hamilton, Hargreaves, Brown, Burger, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Ransom for Bosch (79), Hodgson for Barritt (65), De Kock for Wigglesworth (65), Barrington for M Vunipola (69), Sharman for George (75), Johnston for Du Plessis (69), Itoje for Hamilton (75), Joubert for Brown (70).

Munster: Jones; Conway, Howard, D Hurley, Zebo; Keatley, Williams; J Cronin, Casey, Botha, Foley, O'Connell, P O'Mahony, O'Donnell, Stander.

Replacements: Earls for Howard (49), R O'Mahony for Zebo (75), Hanrahan for Keatley (75), Guinazu for Casey (62), Archer for Botha (66), B. Holland for Foley (75), J. Ryan for O'Donnell (69), D O'Callaghan for Stander (27).

Sin Bin: J Cronin (67).

Att: 9,999

Ref: Romain Poite (France).

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