Saracens beat Munster to reach European final

2019-04-20 18:15
Billy Vunipola (Getty)

Coventry - Billy Vunipola ended a difficult week in which he supported Israel Folau's homophobic comments with a man-of-the-match display as Saracens beat Munster 32-16 in their European Champions Cup semi-final at Coventry's Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

The England No 8 was repeatedly jeered by Munster fans days after the back-rower was warned by his club and the Rugby Football Union for publishing a controversial statement on social media.

Vunipola said "man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?" on Instagram and he also liked a post from Australia's Israel Folau that stated "hell awaits" for homosexuals.

But although fans of the English champions were vastly out-numbered by supporters of the Irish province, their cheers could still be heard when Vunipola went over for a try in the 72nd minute that confirmed Saracens' victory.

And as he walked back to celebrate his score, he appeared to gesture towards the Munster fans who had been taunting him.

"Behind closed doors this week, I felt a lot of love and kindness and I am very grateful to be part of this team," Vunipola told BT Sport.

"From my point of view, I believe in what I believe in and it was never my intention to hurt anyone," he added after a win that saw Saracens into a May 11 final in Newcastle against either title holders Leinster or Toulouse, who play on Sunday.

Meanwhile, elated Saracens coach Mark McCall told reporters: "Billy was outstanding today, so were all of his team-mates to be honest. We got all the big parts of our game right today and a great team effort."

McCall, turning to Vunipola's social media posts, added: "The club dealt with it, it's been dealt with, it was dealt with quickly and it was dealt with, in my opinion, fairly. 

"Then we just got on with the rugby and that's what we're here to do, get on with the rugby."

There was further drama after the final whistle when a fan wearing a Munster shirt got onto the pitch to confront Vunipola - an incident that both McCall and Munster counterpart Johann van Graan said they had not seen.

Tournament organisers European Professional Club Rugby said in response: "EPCR does not condone the entry of a spectator to the field of play. Following the regrettable incident at the Ricoh Arena, the spectator in question is currently being detained by the stadium authorities."

"We were beaten by a better side on the day and they were really good," said Munster's Van Graan. 

"Not a lot of teams in the world put pressure like Saracens do. Sometimes you've just got to say well done to the opposition."

Munster, like Saracens, two time-European champions, have now lost 10 of their tournament record 14 semi-finals.

Owen Farrell's second-minute penalty and stoppage time effort were two of his four successful goalkicks in a first half that saw Munster flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal twice on target before Munster and Ireland scrumhalf landed Conor Murray landed a monster 47-metre penalty.

But Saracens pulled clear decisively soon after half-time. 

Flank Michael Rhodes picked an excellent line to take a short pop pass from scrumhalf Ben Spencer and charge in, with Munster distracted by decoy runners.

Farrell converted and then rubbed salt in Munster's wounds with two more penalties.

Munster disrupted a scrum near Saracens' line before Darren Sweetnam dived over for his side's only try of the game.

Vunipola powered his way over the line from close range to secure Sarries' fourth final appearance in six seasons with nine minutes to play.


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk
Breaking News

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Which of the 4 South African team will finish with the fewest Super Rugby SA Conference points?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.