Heineken Cup: Munster beat Saracens but bonus may be key
Last Updated: 08/12/12 8:17pm
Dave O'Callaghan of Munster tangles with Saracens' Kelly Brown
Munster joined Saracens at the top of Heineken Cup Pool 1 after a 15-9 victory over their English rivals at Thomond Park.
Sarries had won two from two heading for Limerick but struggled to cope with Munster's intensity in front of a 26,000 crowd.
Despite that they could have earned a share of the spoils if Owen Farrel had brought his kicking boots. Unfortunatley one of the heroes of Twickenham a week ago missed four kicks from seven attempts at goal.
By contrast veteran points machine Ronan O'Gara kicked all five of his penalty chances for the hosts and that ultimately proved the difference between the sides.
But Farrell did kick a penalty two minutes from time to earn Saracens a losing bonus point that may prove crucial, with the sides now locked on 10 points apiece after three games and set to meet again in Watford next weekend.
With the referee's whistle an almost constant accompaniment to the spluttering action, flowing rugby was at a premium, although Conor Murray almost put Simon Zebo in under the posts in the opening minutes after a break from a lineout.
By then O'Gara had nudged Munster ahead and shortly afterwards a misfiring Farrell was short from 42 metres.
Donncha O'Callaghan and Rhys Gill were sin-binned following a fight and O'Gara doubled the lead before the sides shared a couple of late penalties and Munster led 9-3 at the break.
Just after the re-start Farrell was short with a 40-metre penalty, but within 60 seconds he had another chance from closer in and he knocked this one over.
O'Gara cooly converted two more penalties to stretch the lead and Farrell missed a straightforward penalty dragged wide, before Will Fraser was denied at the corner by brilliant defence from Doug Howlett.
Felix Jones had to make a try-saving tackle on David Strettle as the England winger headed for the corner and after Chris Ashton was taken out off the ball, Farrell had a chance to earn the bonus point with seven minutes left.
He missed yet again but was given one final chance two minutes from time, from an almost identical position after a Munster lineout offence, and this time he made no mistake.