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Champions Cup

Munster Fall to Seventh Straight Semi-Final Defeat

Munster have been knocked out of the Champions Cup at the semi-final stage once more with defeat to Saracens

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Hopes of an All-Irish Champions Cup final are over after Munster lost 32-16 to Saracens in the semi-final stage at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

The loss is Munster’s seventh semi-final defeat in a row and means the nations hopes now lie with Leinster as they face Toulouse on Sunday for a place in the final.

The huge physical battle was kicked off by Owen Farrell, who knocked over a penalty after only two minutes to put the hosts 3-0 up.

On nine minutes Munster struck level thanks to a Tyler Bleyendaal penalty.

Farrell kicked a further two penalties without reply by the 26th minute as Saracens went 9-3 ahead.

Bleyendaal slotted home his second penalty of the afternoon, before Conor Murray stepped up to score a monster long-range penalty to bring the sides level.

On the stroke of half-time Farrell finished as he started with his fourth penalty of the game to bring the home side 12-9 up at the whistle.

The visitor’s massive defensive effort in the opening half told only two minutes into the second half as Saracens kept the ball well before Michael Rhodes got in for the first try of the game. Farrell converted to stretch their lead out to 19-9.

By the 53rd minute they were further in front when Farrell kicked his fifth and sixth penalties of the day to make it 25-9.

With 20 minutes remaining Munster got themselves back into the game as they worked the ball out to Darren Sweetnam who raced over to touch-down. JJ Hanrahan converted to make it 25-16.

Billy Vunipola got the next score with 10 minutes left when he broke through for his sides second try. Farrell was on hand once more to add the extras.

Saracens were reduced to 14 men when Vincent Koch was sin-binned, but it made little difference as Saracens held on for a 32-16 win.

After the game a fan wearing a Munster jersey confronted Billy Vunipola following his support for Israel Folau’s anti-LGBT comments on social media recently. Which left a soar taste to the tie.

In the post-match press conference Munster head coach Johann van Graan admitted his side were second-best on the day.

“We weren’t good enough on the day, we got beaten by the better team so no excuses from our side,” he said.

Saracens march on to the final in Newcastle now where they will face either Leinster or Toulouse. While Munster now look towards their next game with Connacht as they look to pip Glasgow to top spot in Conference A of the Pro 14.

Player Ratings:

Saracens = Alex Goode (7), David Strettle (7), Alex Lozowski (6), Brad Barritt (6), Liam Williams (7), Owen Farrell (9), Ben Spencer (8); Mako Vunipola (7), Jamie George (7), Titi Lamositele (8), Maro Itoje (8), George Kruis (7), Michael Rhodes (8), Jackson Wray (7), Billy Vunipola (7)

Replacements (7)

Munster = Mike Haley (6), Andrew Conway (6), Chris Farrell (6), Niall Scannell (7), Darren Sweetnam (7), Tyler Bleyendaal (6), Conor Murray (7); Dave Kilcoyne (7), Niall Scannell (6), John Ryan (5), Jean Kleyn (7), Tadhg Beirne (6), Peter O’Mahony (6), Jack O’Donoghue (6), CJ Stander (8)

Replacements (6)

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Champions Cup

Ulster make changes for Toulouse

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster match-day squad has been named for the Second Leg of the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 versus Toulouse at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.

Nick Timoney will make his 100th appearance for the Ulster men, as he is named to start at openside – with Marcus Rea at blindside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight. Andrew Warwick comes in to start at loosehead, and will pack down with Rob Herring at hooker and Marty Moore at tighthead. Captain Iain Henderson will partner with Alan O’Connor in the engine room.

Mike Lowry and Rob Baloucoune, who signed new 3-year contract extensions this week, are named at full-back and on the right wing respectively. Ethan McIlroy returns to take the left-wing starting berth. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume will form the midfield partnership, and John Cooney and Billy Burns are retained at scrum-half and out-half.

Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Jordi Murphy will provide forward reinforcements, while Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall and Rob Lyttle will offer back line cover.

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 Second Leg, Saturday 16 April at Kingspan Stadium, 8pm kick-off, live on BT Sport, beIN Sports, and Sky Italia:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jordi Murphy, Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall, Rob Lyttle.

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Champions Cup

Graham Rowntree Confirmed As Next Munster Head Coach

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Graham Rowntree will be promoted from Forwards Coach to the role of Head Coach from July 1, 2022.

Rowntree will commence the role of Head Coach at the start of the 2022/23 season after signing a two-year deal.

The former England prop made the move to Limerick in October 2019 on completion of his Rugby World Cup coaching duties with Georgia Rugby.

In his third season as Forwards Coach Graham and family have settled well into Limerick life, noting earlier this year, “I have made my thoughts about this club widely known throughout my time so far, and for me and my family it really has been an easy decision, a non-decision if truth be told.

“We’ve put down roots here and have no desire to move anywhere else.”

With an impressive coaching CV and vast experience, Rowntree previously held coaching roles with the British and Irish Lions, England Rugby, Harlequins and Leicester Tigers.

Working closely with the IRFU, the province will advance with next steps in securing the backroom team that will work with Graham from next season as Head Coach Johann van Graan, Senior Coach Stephen Larkham, and Defence Coach JP Ferreira depart the province at the end of June.

IRFU Performance Director, David Nucifora, commented, “I would like to thank the Munster Professional Game Committee for their work and diligence during this process.

“It is important that Munster have someone who understands the unique history and culture of the club and has the experience to maximise the talent in the squad.

“Graham was very impressive throughout this process and demonstrated he has the capabilities to spearhead the next chapter of Munster Rugby.”

On confirmation of the promotion, Graham Rowntree added, “I am hugely honoured to be taking over the role of Head Coach for a club of this calibre, one that means so much to me and my family.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed every moment here and I fortunately get to work with an incredible group of staff and players who share a common goal each day in striving for success for this club.

“I’ve talked about our fantastic supporters before and again at the weekend we stepped off the bus to a huge red welcome in Exeter. Who doesn’t want to be part of that, that’s special!

“I believe we have the established structures in place with the resources and facilities to match and that it will be a smooth transition for the coaching ticket we assemble in ensuring continued development and success for this club.

“Before then I have a role to complete this season and working closely with Johann, Steve, and JP is the immediate focus and priority for now.”

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “Graham’s extensive coaching experience and knowledge for the game makes him the perfect candidate to lead this squad forward.

“With Graham stepping up at the start of the new season it will be a seamless and natural progression from the work that has been carried out to-date.

“For now, we will continue our focus on the remainder of this season with Graham supporting Johann and the coaching staff in achieving our goals.”

Munster Rugby Home Fixtures

Saturday, April 16

Champions Cup Round of 16: Munster v Exeter Chiefs, Thomond Park, 3pm; Buy tickets here

Friday, April 29

URC: Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Musgrave Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby

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Champions Cup

Ulster name team for Toulouse

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The Ulster match-day squad has been selected for the first leg of the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 versus Toulouse at Le Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Ben Moxham will make his first European start for Ulster as he is named on the left wing alongside Mike Lowry at full-back and Robert Baloucoune on the right wing. Stuart McCloskey comes in to start and will partner with James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns and John Cooney return to form the half-back pairing.

The front row sees Eric O’Sullivan and Rob Herring named at loosehead and hooker, with Marty Moore retaining his place at tighthead prop. Alan O’Connor returns to pair up with captain Iain Henderson in the second row. Marcus Rea comes in at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney and Duane Vermeulen retained at openside and Number Eight respectively.

Brad Roberts, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell and Jordi Murphy provide the forward reinforcements on the bench. Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall and Rob Lyttle will offer the back line options.

Ulster team to play Toulouse, Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 First Leg, Saturday 9 April at Le Stadium, 3.15pm kick-off (UK / IRE time), live on BT Sport, beIN Sports, FR2:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ben Moxham, Billy Burns, John Cooney;

(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Brad Roberts, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jordi Murphy, Nathan Doak, Luke Marshall, Rob Lyttle.

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