European Rugby Champions Cup 2014-15

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European Rugby Champions Cup
Munster too strong for Saracens
ESPN Staff
October 24, 2014
Date/Time: Oct 24, 2014, 19:45 local, 18:45 GMT
Venue: Thomond Park, Limerick
Munster 14 - 3 Saracens
Half-time: 3 - 3
Tries: Kilcoyne
Pens: Keatley 2
Drops: Keatley
Pens: Farrell
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Munster ended a tight European Champions Cup encounter on their terms as Saracens succumbed to a 14-3 defeat at Thomond Park.

Dave Kilcoyne came off the bench to score a decisive 60th-minute try for Munster while Saracens replacement prop Rhys Gill was in the sin-bin.

Despite a disappointing night with the boot, Ian Keatley contributed two penalties and a drop goal with 15 minutes left which proved to be the final score of a bruising Anglo-Irish battle.

The expectant home crowd had to wait until the 26th minute for Keatley's opening penalty which the returning Owen Farrell cancelled out in a first half that had no clean line-breaks.

The Munster fly-half made it 6-3 in the 53rd minute following Gill's yellow card, and Kilcoyne touch downed from an advancing maul against 14-man Sarries.

With man-of-the-match Conor Murray marshalling the hosts from scrum-half, Munster sealed their second Pool One win thanks to Keatley's second drop goal of the tournament.

This fascinating round two tie remained scoreless in an edgy opening quarter, Marcelo Bosch sending a long range penalty narrowly wide and Keatley's 11th-minute effort from closer in hitting the post.

The onrushing Andrew Conway knocked on as he attempted to gather the loose ball from Keatley's missed kick and Saracens survived thanks to a solid follow-up scrum.

The Limerick drizzle made for a greasy ball and the aerial route was understandably favoured by both sides. Munster had a rare sniff of the try-line when Murray wormed his way through after a maul was held up, but busy winger Conway was quickly closed down for a relieving Sarries penalty.

Keatley rewarded his pack for a ground-gaining maul by slotting the first points close to the half hour mark, a deserved lead given Munster's territorial dominance.

The visitors should have been level following some forceful driving from their own pack, but Farrell's lack of recent game-time was evident when he hooked a kickable penalty wide.

Farrell made no such mistake with his second attempt, this time from the right, after Billy Vunipola had carried four times in a promising attacking spell.

Sarries drew confidence from a late Keatley penalty miss and Alex Goode and Chris Ashton combined for a welcome midfield break early on the resumption.

Ashton grew in influence as the black shirts bludgeoned forward, however Munster relieved the pressure with a scrum penalty and some textbook tackling.

Gill's 51st-minute sin-binning - awarded for recklessly tipping CJ Stander over in an attempt to clear out a ruck - allowed Munster to hit back and Keatley booted them back in front.

A weaving run from Conway kept the hosts on the front foot, and Saracens could not hold out. Television match official Eric Gauzins denied Conway what seemed a legitimate try as he squeezed over in the right corner past David Strettle.

It was a stay of execution for Sarries, though, as Munster used the resulting penalty to power forward from a close-in lineout for replacement prop Kilcoyne to crash over. Keatley narrowly missed the difficult conversion.

Half-backs Keatley and Murray increased their influence with some pinpoint kicking, the former clipping over a drop goal from inside the 22 to stretch the lead to 11 points.

Kilcoyne won a scrum penalty which should have led to another three points but Keatley fluffed his lines, ending the night with a frustrating two-from-six return from the tee.

Ian Keatley's drop goal proved to be the final score © Getty Images
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