Boot of O'Gara helps Munster to stand up and fight off Saracens
“An English team coming to Thomond Park in the Heineken Cup, there is something special about that, and we wanted to set down a physical marker early and I think we achieved that,” said Coughlan afterwards.
“I think our accuracy went out the window as a result, that is something we are going to have to look at. We must be a bit more controlled in what we are doing as we left a fair amount of points behind us.”
That’s certainly true, but the concession of 17 penalties, 12 were out of Sarries kicking range, seemed like a calculated plan to force this latest, supposed Goliath into a street fight.
The crowd, as they always have done, played their part even if the long standing tradition of respecting opposing kickers wasn’t adhered to. The natives were understandably livid with some of Gauzere decisions. You pitied the French man by the end as he seemed lost on this field of professionals. Maybe a referee must undergo such an experience to develop.
On this night, Munster momentarily shelved the new Rob Penney doctrine and went about creating havoc right from the kick-off. There was almost another of those Sebastien Chabal moments, with Chris Ashton the intended target, as Donncha O’Callaghan led the manic opening kick-chase.
A feral 20 minutes ensured.
“The breakdown was a bit of a mess,” said Mark McCall, the Ulster man and Saracens director of rugby. “We came out the right side of the penalty count but it does stop the flow to a game. Munster came into the game with a massive reputation for playing a lot of ball in hand. It was a pretty awful game, scrappy game.”
Gauzere also seemed to misinterpret the scrum, especially in the first-half, handing Saracens two free-kicks and two penalty kicks, much to BJ Botha’s frustration, one of which Farrell nailed on 36 minutes. O’Gara was having none of it, restoring Munster’s six point lead within 90 seconds after Ernst Joubert’s lineout infringement.
Line out steal
They should have got more from the opening 40 minutes, especially after O’Mahony’s lineout steal was followed by Kilcoyne and Sherry rumbles up the middle, only for O’Gara’s drop goal to sail wide.
Farrell partially atoned for two earlier misses to make it 9-6 but, again, this prompted an immediate response with Keith Earls’ constant threat from outside centre creating the yardage and now that Gauzere had finally realised which team was dominating the scrum O’Gara was presented the chance to make it 12-6.