Captain Peter O’Mahony’s first-half try proved crucial as Munster secured a 10-3 win over Saracens that means they remain undefeated in Pool 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup.
However, late drama ensued in Thomond Park as the southern province were reduced to 14 players with the clock in the red zone when replacement back-row Arno Botha was red-carded for leading with the elbow as he carried.
Following the game, Johann van Graan was diplomatic in his response to Botha’s red card claiming that referee Romain Poite had no other choice than to send off the South African.
“I’ll have to go have a look at it again. Initial thoughts, he definitely didn’t have any choice.
“Look, it happened so quickly, it was literally instinct. It was actually such a great carry but, unfortunately, if he’s made contact with the head, the referee doesn’t have any decision to award a red card.
“Obviously, he feels bad about it. It happens in a split second. We’ll have a look at it and it was, unfortunately, the last play of the game, then it went to a lineout and I thought we handled that quite well.”
Van Graan continued by swatting away questions surrounding rugby’s disciplinary proceedings claiming his side can only focus on things within their control.
“I don’t want to get into that, there’s people employed to do that job.
“All I can do is focus on the things that we can control. It happens so quickly. There were other instances in this game where there were cleanouts and you know, the referee deemed that fair, you’ve just got to respect the decisions and move on.
“It’s a world-class referee and you’ve got to stick with his decisions. I spoke to him after in the tunnel and it’s just the way sport goes. That’s why he’s one of the best in the world.”
The one thing Munster can control is the outcome of next week’s return fixture in London. While Munster are undefeated after three pool games, their draw with Racing coupled with Saracens’ losing bonus-point yesterday means it’s going to be tight for qualification places.
Van Graan admitted the bonus-point could be crucial come the end of the pool stages but he knows that if Munster can keep their undefeated record intact, then they will be safely through.
“It could be [crucial]. I thought we were unlucky it hit the post and bounced back and they charged Chris down. We defended quite well, so small margins. We’ll take a win against Saracens any day of the week. Right from the start, we knew this pool was going to be tight.
“From our point of view, we are still unbeaten in this group. An away win with a bonus-point [against Ospreys], a home win against Saracens, and a draw against Racing. So it’s going to go right down to the wire and the only thing we can control is next week against Saracens in London.”
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