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Dublin: 2 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019


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One Irish province safely aboard the boat to Bilbao, one to go.

It’s heating up at Stade Chaban Delmas, with thousands of travelling Munster fans stirring up a fervent atmosphere in 25-degree heat on the banks of the Garonne.

Donnacha Ryan arrives Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Racing 92, complete with Donnacha Ryan, stand between Munster and the end of a decade-long wait since their last European Cup final, the 2008 victory over Toulouse.

We’ll have news and views from the ground as well as updates and insight throughout the match. So, whether you’re not able to watch or you simply enjoy checking in with us while you do, stick with us as the battle unfolds in Bordeaux.

Munster and Racing fans ahead of the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Here’s a reminder of the teams for today’s massive match (kick-off 15.15 Irish time,BT Sport).

Tipp man Ryan is in Racing’s second row alongside the always-exciting Fijian Leone Nakarawa. All Black great Dan Carter is among the replacements.

Joining the Kiwi in the stands, of course, is Simon Zebo who will follow Ryan to Paris this summer. the fit-again Keith Earls and Andrew Conway and Alex Wootton have been preferred in Johann van Graan’s back three.

Teddy Thomas arrives Teddy Thomas, who starred in the early rounds of the Six Nations, arrives for today's clash. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Racing 92:

15. Louis Dupichot
14. Teddy Thomas
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Henry Chavancy
11. Marc Andreu
10. Pat Lambie
9. Maxime Machenaud (captain)

1. Eddy Ben Arous
2. Camille Chat
3. Cedate Gomes Sa
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Leone Nakarawa
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Bernard Le Roux
8. Yannick Nyanga


16. Dimitri Szarzewski
17. Vasil Kakovin
18. Viliamu Afatia
19. Antonie Claassen
20. Baptiste Chouzenoux
21. Teddy Iribaren
22. Dan Carter
23. Joe Rokocoko

Johann van Graan Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO


15. Andrew Conway
14. Keith Earls
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Rory Scannell
11. Alex Wootton
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander

Simon Zebo arrives Source: James Crombie/INPHO


16. Rhys Marshall
17. James Cronin
18. John Ryan
19. Gerbrandt Grobler
20. Robin Copeland
21. James Hart
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Simon Zebo

Referee: JP Doyle [RFU].

Munster fans wave flags Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

So we’re just minutes from kick-off and it really is a mouthwatering game in store.

Carter and Zebo on the bench, Earls and Thomas providing the pace on the wing. Who will earn dominance for their team, Ryan or Holland, O’Mahony or Le Roux,  Killer or Nakarawa?

And who can best put that dominance to use and translate in on the scoreboard, the excellent Ian Keatley, Henry Chavancy, Maxime Machenaud… or the great Conor Murray?

The answers will become apparent very, very soon.

Conor Murray Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO


KICK-OFF: We’re off and running in Bordeaux and, after a line-out malfunction of their own, Munster’s maul defence is off to good start to quash an early Racing shove.

Racing show their willingness to attack from deep though and Arnold in pinged on the 10 metre line and Racing go to the corner.


Munster secure the ball and Murray clears, but the pressure keeps coming.


Munster soaking tackles and losing yards in the heat, Vakatawa flings a nice flat pass to Thomas who makes handing off Wootton look all too easy and he skips over the try-line.

Machenaud was on target with the conversion.


A horrific start for Munster, but the response comes in the form of a terrific turnover from CJ Stander, vital to stem the Ciel et Bleu tide.


Stander’s groundwork is undone by a poor kick as Keatley misses touch and Dupichot responds with a long raking kick from his 22 back into Munster’s half.


Conway sparks Munster’s first meaningful attack of the day and Arnold backs him up.

The red waves are stacked and ready to roll from the Racing 22, but Keatley’s pass comes perilously close to being intercepted by Thomas.


Munster’s front row force a scrum penalty. Keats kicks for the corner to set up an attacking platform from 10 metres out.

Arnold crashes up another ball for hard yards, then Kleyn and Murray whips the ball back for Keatley to have a drop at goal!

He’s easily charged down, and in the scramble Rory Scannell pops up with the ball and swings a second attempt wide.


Very unsettled from Munster in attack. Patience is the bare minimum when that close to the line.

But back they come and, on this attack, a Racing offside invites Munster to kick at goal.

Keatley slots it.

PENALTY! Racing 7 Munster 3 (Keatley ’17)

That will hopefully settle the out-half.


Vakatawa breezes between Conor Murray and Arnold and bursts over halfway before releasing the electric Thomas.

Machenaud is on target from the touchline conversion.

This is seriously rough going for Munster.


Correction on that, Thomas declined the option to ground his hat-trick, instead handing the ball to Maxime Machenaud.

That’s a sorry indictment of how easy Racing are finding this semi-final.

Machenaud gratefully accepts the gift and bangs over the conversion.

Racing 21 Munster 3


PENALTY! Racing 24 Munster 3 (Machenaud ’26)


There’s no way to dress this up, this has been an utter howler of a 30 minutes from Munster’s defence. Unable to match Racing’s physicality and they are falling off tackles.

The missed tackle count is already at a whopping 14.

21 points is a long climb back at this level, no matter how much time you have.


Better from Munster, Murray barking orders as his pack make yards and JP Doyle has to duck down as he flings a pass for Keatley to go wide with.

Earls can’t hold the pass that’s put just an inch too far in front of him though.

The scrum is solid still and Munster keep in the right areas  to draw penalties from the Paris club. Murray kicks for touch.


Conor Murray refusing to let this game die, quick-taps a penalty and looks dangerous as he raids inside the 22 and sets up another Munster onslaught.

The pressure continually looks on borrowed time though, Racing have a robust enough defence to ward Killer and Stander away from the tight carries and when the ball goes wide, errors soon follow.


HALF-TIME! Racing 24 Munster 3

Racing built their lead with ease, and then set up shop for 20 minutes of hard defensive graft.

If Munster are to come back here, they must find a way to stretch the Paris club.

Munster aren’t really built to come back from massive deficits, just ask the stats man.

That’s three fewer points than they currently trail by… and it was 11 years ago.


The second half is off and running, but Racing try to drag Conor Murray into a scrap early in the half.

Andreu is on Murray’s back and he falls on his back as Murray shrugs him off, the scrum-half then has a set to with Vakatawa.

After a consult with the TMO, JP Doyle does a decent job of defusing the situation and gives just a penalty.


PENALTY! Racing 27 Munster 3 (Machenaud ’43)

That’s the signal for Johann van Grann to start sending on reinforcements. Zebo is in for Wootton (should it have been that way from the start?) and the front row is changed up.


Racing look perfectly happy without the ball as Munster mount phase after phase in their 22.

The one gap to be found comes as Rhys Marshall runs at the referee, Munster’s travelling red army briefly have a try to celebrate before JP Doyle spins to call the hooker back.

As an added bonus to their big lead, Racing have been able to keep a lot of their gameplan under wraps. Not much for Leinster to pick apart.

Maybe Dan Carter can give us something to pore over in the final 25 minutes.


Machenaud misses a chance to extend the lead, he pings his long-range penalty off the bar.

No reprieve for Munster though, here is one of the greatest out-halves of all time.

Dan Carter Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO


As the hour mark comes, Munster continue to press for consolation tries.

Conor Murray goes very close to planting the ball on the line and Peter O’Mahony is held up. Scrum  V.


SIN-BIN: Andreu is handed a yellow card, so Munster can attack 14.


TRY! Racing 27 Munster 8 (Zebo ’63)

Munster make the most of the extra space. Hanrahan makes a half line-break and Murray flings a flat pass to Zebo who steps outside the tackler and over the line.

The Corkman is now Munster’s joint record try-scorer in Europe, level with Anthony Foley.


Murray and Zebo again showing a threat in attack, the scrum-half steps into space and Zebo flings a long pass wide.

It’s called back as forward, unfortunately. Probably less forward than Dan Carter’s pass in Clermont in the quarter-finals.


Racing are back to 15 men as Andreu returns to the field.

Munster continue to do all the running, but Racing are more than happy to hold them at arm’s length and sweep up whatever mess they can.


TRY! Racing 27 Munster 13 (Marshall ’76)


Munster get their maul going at last and Rhys Marshall gets over the line for the province’s second try.

Hanrahan adds the extras and the scoreboard has a deceptively close look to it as we enter the closing minutes.

Racing 27 Munster 15


TRY!  Racing 27 Munster 22 (Conway ’80)

Munster score a third try, but they have been a long way off in this contest. Racing have well and truly coasted to the finish.


FULL-TIME: Racing 92 will face Leinster in the Champions Cup final

Racing 27 Munster 22

About the author:

Sean Farrell


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