Saracens power past Munster to reach Champions Cup final

Rugby Union - European Champions Cup Semi Final - Saracens v Munster - Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Britain - April 20, 2019 Saracens' David Strettle gets away from Munster's Dan Goggin Action Images via Reuters/John Clifton

(Reuters) – Saracens produced a powerful second-half surge to reach their third Champions Cup final in four seasons by beating Munster 32-16 at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

The English champions edged a tight first half 12-9 thanks to four Owen Farrell penalties, with Tyler Bleyendaal and Conor Murray replying for Munster.

The match burst into life after the interval when flanker Michael Rhodes crossed to extend the Saracens lead, and Farrell kicked two more penalties.

Darren Sweetnam, who came in for the injured Keith Earls, crossed for a try against the run of play with 20 minutes left, before Billy Vunipola, who was booed by Munster fans for his controversial social media comments last week, crossed for the second Saracens try.

Vunipola was named man of the match to round off a rollercoaster week in which he was warned by the Rugby Football Union for “liking” condemnatory comments about gay people by Australia fullback Israel Folau on Instagram.

Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall refused to be drawn on the incident but went on to hail a “great team effort”.

“I thought we played really well through the entire game and although the scoreboard said 12-9 at half-time it didn’t feel like that,” he said.

“The thing that pleased me most was the players understood that the score didn’t reflect the way we played and what we were building towards.

“I was just really pleased with our intensity and the control we had.”

For Munster, it was their third defeat at this stage of the competition in three years.

“We got beaten by the better side on the day. We can’t fault the efforts of the players or the management,” Munster head coach Johann van Graan said.

Saracens, European champions in 2016 and 2017, will face the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Leinster and Toulouse in the final at St James’ Park, Newcastle on May 11.

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