Wednesday 25 April 2018

Great escape is on once more

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony has his eyes on the prize during squad training this week ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Saracens
Munster’s Peter O’Mahony has his eyes on the prize during squad training this week ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Saracens

John Fallon

Munster turned their full attention to the do-or-die clash against Saracens the moment the full-time whistle went in Parma last Saturday evening.

Of course, little has occupied the minds of everyone in Munster since Ian Keatley snatched a bonus point in the dying seconds of the defeat away to Clermont Auvergne.

That vital kick has kept Munster's slender hopes of making the quarter-finals and it will all come down to tomorrow's clash at Allianz Park.

Munster have played four league matches since that clash in Clermont and having lost two of the opening three away to Glasgow and Connacht - beating Leinster in between - it was crucial for the Reds to secure a win away to Zebre last weekend and head to London in confident manner.

Coach Anthony Foley said that while it wasn't a complete performance by any means, getting a bonus point 31-7 win in Parma was a timely boost.

"We wanted to get momentum back after the Sportsground last week. We felt that we needed to get a performance in - we saw that in bits and pieces against Zebre," said Foley.

Europe's premier competition has always been the top priority for Munster but, regardless of whether they are still in the competition in April, league form is also key especially this year given that qualification for the Champions Cup is riding on it.

Man of the match last week CJ Stander said they are capable of challenging on both fronts and while the main target last weekend in Italy was to get a boost for the trip to play Saracens, the need to collect league points was also important.

"We just wanted to come out and get the win, the four points - the bonus point is extra. It is going to help us at the end of the season in the table and it is good to get a win before the Champions Cup," said Stander.

The victors of tomorrow's clash will head into the final round of games with their quarter-final hopes alive while the losers would be out.

Of course, the outcome of the other game in the pool will also be key and while Clermont will be expected to maintain their winning record in the pool when they travel to Salford, a surprise Sale Sharks win would throw open all sorts of permutations.

But strange things can happen in great escapes!

Irish Independent

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