Rugby365 reports that Saracens captain Neil de Kock said his team had literally shot themselves in the foot in going down 16-18 to Munster in a thrilling Heineken Cup semifinal at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, on Sunday.
The defeat means Saracens are effectively out of the running for a place in next season’s Heineken Cup, given that they are struggling to stay in the top six in the Guinness Premiership with just two league matches left.
“We are gutted and disappointed not to have won, but we ended up shooting ourselves in the foot,” De Kock said in his post-match reaction. “The gut wrenching thing is we are probably going to have to wait another two seasons to have another crack at this competition. That is a really tough pill to swallow.”
De Kock put his own demons aside to give coach Alan Gaffney, who is leaving the club, a ringing endorsement on behalf of his squad and the supporters. “We haven’t gone all the way, but you can see the contribution he [Gaffney] has made here,” said the Springbok No.9. “It’s very disappointing to see him go [at the end of the season] but he has brought us so far.”
His words were echoed by flank Richard Hill, who admitted it was a wrench not to have helped Sarries end their barren pursuit of silverware in his penultimate match before retiring. “Alan has been brilliant and there is no doubt we’ve come a long way as a team and a squad in just two years,” said the flank. “We’ve made a few semifinals but now it is a case of building year on year. “The aim has to be to raise the level of consistency and convert one of these semifinals into a Final. “This was the last time I will play at that level of competition,” he added. “We’ve come so far as a team and were only a matter of a few points from getting to a Heineken Cup Final.” Gaffney was awash with emotion during the post-match press conference as his ashen-faced skipper, De Kock, sat beside him wondering what might have been.
Gaffney was also left to rue a lapse in concentration, which saw Alan Quinlan cross for Munster’s second try just before the interval. “The try on half-time was a killer, we didn’t react to the penalty in Munster’s half, we turned our backs. It was a costly error,” Gaffney said. “It was always going to be a war of attrition, but we fought through it and I’m very proud of what they did.”
Gaffney, who will hand over the reins to former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones next season, went on: “To hold out with 13 men and not concede any points and then nearly pinch the game at the end is disappointing but I’m delighted with the way we performed. “They were prepared to do anything and everything they could to win the game, which is a great credit to them “It was an entertaining game of rugby, both sides tried to play, despite the conditions. There’s definitely something to build on. “The unfortunate thing is now we don’t qualify for Europe, we’ll be in the Challenge Cup next season, and that’s a bit strange for a defeated semi-finalist. But we know the way the seedings work.”Tweet