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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 4°C
# Ruthless
Munster crush Racing to move to top of Pool 1 on return to Paris
Rassie Erasmus’ men paid tribute to the memory of Anthony Foley in style.

Racing 7

Munster 32

Murray Kinsella reports from Stade Yves du Manoir

IT WAS A strange experience for Munster returning to Paris just over 11 weeks after Anthony Foley’s death, but they delivered an efficient and ruthless performance to pay tribute to ‘Axel’ and moved to the top of Pool 1 of the Champions Cup in the process.

Though it was a big ask for many Munster supporters to fork out for a second trip to the French capital, hundreds of them turned up to watch Rassie Erasmus’ side secure a bonus-point victory.

Billy Holland celebrates with Andrew Conway after he scored his sides third try James Crombie / INPHO Billy Holland celebrates with Andrew Conway after the wing's try. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

On a wet evening in Colombes, the temperature dipped close to 0°C but Munster managed the conditions well to cross for tries through man of the match CJ Stander, hooker Niall Scannell, Simon Zebo and right wing Andrew Conway.

9,223 people in total braved the weather at Stade Yves du Manoir and Racing’s fans made some noise to their credit, but it was essentially all one-way traffic on the pitch.

This utterly convincing success against a Racing team that looked disinterested at times – and downright awful at other times – means Munster move three points above Glasgow in this group, with a visit to the Warriors waiting next weekend.

Thereafter, Erasmus and co. will welcome Racing – who have now lost four games from four for zero match points in this pool – to Thomond Park. Surely Munster must now be targeting a home quarter-final.

They dominated this fixture from start to finish, barring a couple of brief Racing flurries and a late consolation try for the French side, with their scrum and lineout both delivering clean and commanding performances.

Jacques Nienaber’s defence was largely strong again as Munster wrapped up their bonus point within 55 minutes, allowing them to empty a bench that included the likes of Keith Earls and Francis Saili.

Among the most impressive performers for the Irish province were second row Donnacha Ryan – brilliantly combative throughout – openside Tommy O’Donnell, and the Scannell brothers, Rory and Niall.

CJ Stander scores his sides second try James Crombie / INPHO Stander was among the scorers. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

CJ Stander once again racked up a huge carrying total of 21, while Conor Murray had his usual moments of class and Billy Holland topped the tackle charts. Captain Peter O’Mahony hammered rucks as always, and in truth every one of Munster’s players showed up.

Munster cruised into a 25-0 lead at the break, as Zebo, Stander and Conway all scored tries in a dominant performance that saw their lion’s share of the possession and territory bring reward.

It took the visitors 15 minutes to open the scoring, with Tyler Bleyendaal’s straightforward three points off the tee something of a disappointment after Munster had battered the Racing tryline for close to four full minutes.

The Top 14 outfit did have some success with hanging garryowens from the boot of out-half Benjamin Dambielle with their limited ball early on, but Munster settled well after getting on the scoreboard.

Zebo was over after 23 minutes as Erasmus’ men struck clinically from a close-range scrum soon after a TMO review had showed that loosehead James Cronin came up just short with a pick and drive.

Munster opted for another scrum after Racing collapsed the first, with Rory Scannell carrying muscularly on first phase, before captain Peter O’Mahony came around the corner at pace. With quick ball, Murray hit Zebo on third phase and the fullback scored through the tackle of Teddy Thomas out to the left.

Bleyendaal converted, and added three points around 10 minutes later as Racing gave up another penalty under their posts – O’Mahony complaining to referee Matthew Carley about the repeated infringements to no avail.

But Racing dipped coming towards the break and Munster took full advantage.

Stander blocked down a Dambielle kick inside the Racing half, allowing Rory Scannell to scoop the ball and carry well again. Only seconds after forcing the turnover, Stander then got back on the ball and scorched in from more than 25 metres out, fending Chris Masoe en route.

Just before half-time, another Racing error allowed Munster a lineout platform 30 metres out on the right.

Tyler Bleyendaal makes a break James Crombie / INPHO Munster's out-half Tyler Bleyendaal. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

They caught and set up to maul, only for Murray to bounce back down the blindside and cleverly slide a grubber into space and towards the tryline for Conway to gather and dot down.

Bleyendaal’s conversion from wide on the right ensured Munster’s 25-0 lead and a prime opportunity to wrap up a bonus point in the second half.

Munster were loose immediately after the break but a Conway and Stander choke tackle – following the first half examples of O’Mahony, Ryan and others – essentially ended the Racing resistance.

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A scrum penalty followed, allowing Munster to kick up into the right corner, from where Racing twice illegally halted their maul. At the third time of asking, Niall Scannell steered the maul over from five metres out for the bonus score.

Bleyendaal’s conversion made it 32-0 to the visitors, but Racing did at least get their consolation try when the ball ricocheted in behind Munster’s defence, where Zebo slipped and allowed the French side to hack on.

Conway dragged back the chasing Juan Imhoff, and was lucky to escape yellow, but openside flanker Matthieu Voisin won the race to pounce on the bobbling ball and score. Replacement Dan Carter – who looked thrilled to come on with the game already lost – popped over the conversion for Racing.

Billy Holland and CJ Stander celebrate with Niall Scannell after he scored his sides fourth try James Crombie / INPHO Niall Scannell scored Munster's fourth. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Munster seemed happy to take the foot off the pedal in the final 10 minutes, with an important visit to Glasgow to come next weekend. As for this return to Paris, they did Foley and their fans proud with a highly effective bonus-point win.

Racing scorers:

Tries: Matthieu Voisin

Conversions: Dan Carter [1 from 1]

Munster scorers:

Tries: Simon Zebo, CJ Stander, Andrew Conway, Niall Scannell

Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal [4 from 4]

Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal [2 from 2]

RACING 92: Juan Imhoff; Joe Rokocoko, Casey Laulala (Henry Chavancy ’57), Anthony Tuitavke, Teddy Thomas (Dan Carter ’57); Benjamin Dambielle (HIA – Dan Carter ’12 to ’18), Xavier Chauveau; Khatchik Vartanov (Julien Brugnaut ’50), Camille Chat (Virgile Lacombe ’50), Luc Ducalcon (Cedate Gomes Sa ’50); Gerbrandt Grobler, Francois van der Merwe (Ali Williams ’62); Chris Masoe (captain) (So’otala Fa’aso’o ’57), Matthieu Voisin, Antonie Claassen.

Replacements not used: James Hart.

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute (Francis Saili ’56), Rory Scannell (blood – Jaco Taute ’74 to ’76), Ronan O’Mahony (Keith Earls ’56); Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray (Duncan Williams ’66); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne ’56), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall ’62), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’66); Donnacha Ryan (Dave Foley ’74), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tommy O’Donnell (Jack O’Donoghue ’58), CJ Stander.

Referee: Matthew Carley [RFU].

Attendance: 9,223.

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