Saracens came away with a 19-13 victory in Watford that puts them in the driving seat for quarter-final qualification from Pool A, two points clear of Racing Metro and three ahead of Munster with two games to play.
Munster supporters numbered around 5,000 of the 15,288 present at Vicarage Road on Sunday and were by far the more vocal in backing their team as they secured a losing bonus point that keeps Rob Penney’s side in the hunt for qualification, with games at Edinburgh and home to Racing deciding their fate in the New Year.
Yet despite the Saracens victory, many home fans’ enjoyment of the success was marred by the policy of playing a club chant at high volume on the stadium’s public address system every time Munster supporters began singing The Fields of Athenry.
The depth of that feeling was evident on the English Premiership club’s website yesterday as the majority of supporters contributing to the comments section beneath the Munster game match report complained about the intrusive music.
“I am disgusted that the team I love had to stoop so low,” a fan called Suzi wrote to kick off the thread, describing her disappointment and “horror” and laying the blame at the desk of Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths.
“Whoever dreamed that up should be sacked,” said the second comment. “It spoiled a magnificent performance by the team on the pitch.”
And so it went on, with several Munster fans also weighing in on the issue while a handful of Sarries fans supported the loud music, saying their club was within its rights to protect home advantage. Yet many others bemoaned the lack of vocal support for Mark McCall’s team, currently second in the Aviva Premiership, and welcomed the forthcoming move away from Vicarage Road to a smaller stadium closer to its north London roots in Barnet.
The Munster fans’ noise certainly made an impact through the blare as far as the players were concerned and prop Wian du Preez said: “The support from the Munster fans was incredible. Again, it almost touched the levels of Thomond Park last week.
“A big thanks to them and sorry that we couldn’t deliver for them. They really carried us through the whole match.”
Du Preez, who was given a late promotion to the starting line-up when Dave Kilcoyne went down with a gastric illness on the eve of the game, insisted qualification out of the pool was still very much in Munster’s control. Saracens still have to go to Paris to face Racing Metro in round five with the French side going to Thomond Park in round six, the dates for both games being finalised tomorrow.
“The pool is still very close with Racing also winning [against Edinburgh on Friday],” Du Preez said.
“I think it will go down to rounds five and six. Saracens gave themselves a good chance but we’ve still got two matches left to go. We’ll always be hopeful.
“Every win is a must-win now from our point of view, in the next two matches. They are big, massive matches. There are still opportunities in the next two matches.”
Munster, meanwhile, will today hope to have a better idea about the status of full-back Felix Jones, who left the field after just 18 minutes on Sunday with his left thigh strapped having suffered a “corked thigh”, bleeding into the thigh muscle from a direct blow. Like the shoulder blow Peter O’Mahony took in the second half, neither problems are thought to be of serious concern.