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