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Immense defence and big Murray moment gives Munster win over Racing

For an hour, Munster’s first home outing in Europe looked destined for a stalemate in a gruelling weather-hit contest.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster 14

Racing 7

Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park

THE FLOOD BARRIERS along the quays in Limerick held firm through Storm Brian and high tide, and for 75 minutes, Munster proved even more watertight to dig a win out of a gripping battle with Racing.

Though it was a match that took over an hour to deliver a score – a Conor Murray blockdown, chase and slide over the try-line – it was an absorbing affair between two sides struggling to adapt to swirling wind and intermittent squalls.

A week on from a draw which forced everything bar their attitude into the ‘work-on’ column, Munster converted that work-rate into a remarkably disciplined display. Their penalty rate, much maligned in recent weeks, was the most improved. Red jerseys hungrily entered every collision, yet they turned around at half time with only three penalties against their name while Racing were penalised seven times.

CJ Stander with Ben Tameifuna Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Unfortunately, the ever-changing wind made it difficult to count mere penalties on the scoreboard and Munster’s endeavour in attack was twice undone just 10 metres from the try-line by Rhys Marshall’s line-out throws.

The cause for the scoreless first-half was a solid defensive display from the hosts. Racing dominated the first period possession and approached 70% of territory, yet Jacques Nienaber’s defence continually found a body and a hit to keep the danger to a minimum – including a draining set of 20 phases.

Leone Nakarawa and Jean Kleyn Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ian Keatley worked at injecting a higher tempo in Munster’s attack with some smart varied kicks to begin the first half. A foot in touch for Sweetnam, a drop by Keith Earls and a wayward bounce contrived to keep the scoreboard operator from action.

However, it was a kick from a French half-back which ultimately tilted the game. With Dan Carter taking a seat on the bench after being called ashore, Maxime Machenaud attempted to hook a box-kick over a scrum on his own 10 metre line. Munster hands had come whistling past kicks from Machenaud and Carter all night, but clearly they hadn’t heeded the warnings. Murray got his body at point-blank range and the ball bounced kindly off him to remain in play while the scrum-half gave chase and gathered while diving to finish.

Conor Murray scores his sides first try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

And sure you know how it is. You wait an hour in the cold and rain for a try and then three come along at once. To the guttural roars of the 22,054 in Thomond Park, it was Andrew Conway, finishing off after Rory Scannell knitted together a move in the 22, who touched down in the corner before Keatley kicked a second superb touchline effort to give the hosts a full 14-point advantage with 10 minutes on the clock.

Racing weren’t willing to go home empty-handed though, and eventually forced their way onto the scoreboard with Leone Nakarawa’s 75th-minute try.

It gave Munster’s defence even more to ponder as the clock ticked down, but they were up to every last task to pull themselves onto six points in pool four.

Joining them on six points are Leicester – who Munster meet in back-to-back fixtures in December. The Tigers made light work of Castres, running up a bonus point by half time in their 54-29 win.

Scorers

Munster

Tries: C Murray, A Conway

Conversions: I Keatley (2/2)

Penalties I Keatley (0/1)

Racing 92

Tries: L Nakarawa

Conversions: T Iribaren (1/1)

Munster:  Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam (Andrew Conway ’55), Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray: Dave Kilcoyne (Liam O’Connor ’76), Rhys Marshall (Kevin O’Byrne ’62), Stephen Archer (John Ryan ’22), Jean Kleyn (Mark Flanagan ’55), Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell (Jack O’Donoghue ’70), CJ Stander.

Racing 92: Pat Lambie; Joe Rokocoko, Henry Chavancy, Anthony Tuitavke, Louis Dupichot (Albert Vulivuli ’57); Dan Carter (Remi Tales ’52), Maxime Machenaud (Teddy Iribaren ’70): Eddy Ben Arous (Viliamu Afatia ’52), Camille Chat (Dimitri Szarzewski ’52), Ben Tameifuna (Census Johnston ’52), Bernard Le Roux, Leone Nakarawa, Wenceslas Lauret, Yannick Nyanga, Antonie Claassen

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