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Munster face Saracens on journey to redemption

Edinburgh 13 Munster 17

Big win: Keith Earls celebrates his try with Rory Scannell
Big win: Keith Earls celebrates his try with Rory Scannell

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

For A few minutes after full-time, the Munster players lingered on the Murrayfield pitch and savoured the moment. In the dressing-room, Johann van Graan's message was to enjoy the night.

This morning they turn the page on another remarkable chapter in their European history and focus on what they can do to make this season different from the last two.

In 2017 they travelled to the Aviva Stadium on an emotional current under Rassie Erasmus and found out where the level was; Saracens' dominance wasn't fairly reflected on the 26-10 scoreboard. A few weeks later Scarlets blew them off the park in the PRO12 final at the same venue.

Twelve months on Van Graan was at the helm as Teddy Thomas and Racing 92 steamrolled them in the Champions Cup semi-final in Bordeaux.

Then they came to the RDS and produced a performance that came up just short against Leinster as they exited the PRO14 at the semi-final stage.

On Easter weekend they return to the Champions Cup semi-final stage in Coventry.

Saracens are again their opponents after they destroyed Glasgow on home turf and the team who won the 2016 and 2017 editions will take some stopping.

Munster have dug deep to get here, but this time they're determined that the last four is a stop on the road instead of a final destination.

They have business to conclude in the PRO14 as they fight on two fronts, but for this group of players, particularly those raised locally, there is a burning desire to bridge an 11-year gap to a European final.

"Two years ago a lot of our guys hadn't played in a European semi and over the last two seasons a lot of that group that we have now have got that experience," Rory Scannell said.

"We probably let ourselves down over the last two years in the semis and we've definitely learnt from that.

"Hopefully now there's a bit more experience to push on further this year and we'll definitely be looking to get that win and hopefully push on to the final and look for some silverware."

Going on the road won't hold any fear for them.

This season, their route back to the final four has seen them win in Exeter, go close in Castres, hammer Gloucester and come from behind to beat Edinburgh.

"Once we got ahead, we managed the game pretty well. Even when we were under pressure, there was no point where we thought we couldn't win, Scannell continued.

"There's real belief in the team, we know we can win those close games. We've had a few this year, we've been there before and it's great to come out on top today."

There is, he admitted, plenty of room to improve before they pitch up at the Ricoh Arena to face one of Europe's heavyweights.

"We can definitely hold on to the ball better, play in the right areas of the pitch." Scanell said.

Belfast Telegraph


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