DUBLIN, April 22 (Reuters) - Champions Saracens reached the European Champions Cup final on Saturday with a convincing 26-10 victory over Munster at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, keeping alive their hopes of achieving back-to-back league and European doubles.
Munster, playing in a record 12th European semi-final, tried to rattle the English champions and trailed by just three points at halftime but their direct game was easily neutralised as Owen Farrell’s boot and two second-half tries decided the contest between the competition’s meanest defences.
The Irish province started at a ferocious pace in front of a sea of Munster red, pinning Saracens back on their line with a couple of big scrums and their pressure was rewarded with three points from flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal.
But last year’s winner’s quickly showed why they had not been beaten in their previous 16 Champions Cup games, cutting Munster apart out wide, only for scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth to drop the ball with the try line at his mercy.
Farrell levelled the scores with a penalty on 16 minutes and although a Jackson Wray yellow card for a dangerous tackle threatened to put the champions under pressure, Munster could not break their aggressive defence down.
Instead it was Saracens, in a semi-final for the fifth year in a row, who added to the scoreboard while Wray was in the sin- bin with Farrell coolly slotting over a penalty after his pack, containing five players named in the British and Irish Lions squad last week, made the Munster scrum buckle.
Saracens’ superiority continued in the second half and the Munster try line was breached for just the sixth time in eight Champions Cup games when Vunipola drove over with just over a half an hour to play.
Munster came roaring back but Bleyendaal scuffed a penalty and his opposite number slotted one over to widen the gap which became an insurmountable 20 points when Simon Zebo failed to gather a dink through from Farrell and Chris Wyles touched down.
Munster forward CJ Stander barrelled over for a consolation try at the death but it was far too late as Saracens progressed to play the winners of Sunday’s semi-final between Clermont Auvergne and Leinster in the May 13 final in Edinburgh.
Editing by Ed Osmond