Munster have no complaints after Saracens defeat
‘We got beaten by the better team so no excuses from our side’
Munster’s Conor Murray after the game. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
“They were the better side on the day. There were one or two decisions went against us. But no complaints from my side,” said Johann van Graan. The view of the Munster coach was echoed by Ireland and Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony. Munster could see nothing other than honest defeat.
And in it they saw something honourable in that they had come, competed and been beaten 32-16 by a Saracens team that have been at the top of Europe for three or four seasons.
“We came here to win. We were beaten by a better side on the day and they were really good,” added Van Graan. “(They) put some scoreboard pressure on us and then we got back to 25-16, made it a nine point game and they turned the screw on us.
“We played as well as we could. No fault of the players or the management. We did everything we could and well done to the team that beat us and won on the day.”
Grace was the order of a hot afternoon in the English west midlands despite the bitter disappointment of being knocked out of the competition again at the semi-final stage. But in every defeat there is something to take home. O’Mahony, a veteran of these European semi-final defeats, sought to find nuggets of gold.
“We’ve come a long way. You know, we have come a long way as a team and as a squad. I’m not going to argue with a 16-point difference,” he said. “Would I say that they’re, you know, 20, 25 points better than us? No. But, you know, I’m not going to argue with 16 points.
“They outplayed us today. You do get to a stage, nine points down, even after scoring a try, you’re chasing the game and you’re still probably playing out of your game plan a little bit. We played rugby in areas that we probably didn’t plan on doing as a result of being down by that much.
“So with their defence, the way they go after teams, particularly in our half, it makes it that little bit more difficult when you are trying things that if we were closer or ahead we probably wouldn’t be doing. Then when you make mistakes in that area or concede penalties, you’re conceding three points or you’re conceding turnover possession within 20, 25 yards of your line. It just makes it that little bit more difficult to play out of your half.”
It was a self critical mantra that wouldn’t go away, although Van Graan took a shred of comfort that Saracens have been excellent now for some years, twice winners before last season when they were beaten by Leinster in the quarter-finals. Now they have a final against either Leinster or Toulouse to look forward to.
“Yeah, firstly, we weren’t good enough on the day,” added Van Graan. “We got beaten by the better team so no excuses from our side. They’ve been playing some fantastic rugby, both in the Premiership and in Europe. They’ve blown everybody out of this competition at this stage.
“From our side, we gave it all we got. We planned well throughout this whole campaign . There were some fantastic victories and we see getting to another semi-final as a huge positive. We didn’t come here today to lose but in sport a lot of times you’ve got to look your opposition in the eye and as I said to Mark (McCall) afterwards, it was tough up until half-time and then you guys were just much better in the next 30 minutes. You’ve got to concede that you weren’t as good as the opposition on the day.”
Humble. But there was defiance too from Van Graan. Munster will never get used to telling such home truths. But with their history intact, they have earned the right to be brutally honest with themselves.
“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ll be back in Europe next year and we’ll have to get past the pool stage to get into the play-offs again. That will be the first thing. This is a competition we as a club love. As a club we’ll move forward.”