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Munster's European campaign all but over as Racing finish over the top in Paris

Johann van Graan’s men were blown away in the final 10 minutes after an even contest.

Racing 39

Munster 22

RACING’S CAST OF galacticos took their time to settle this one, with Munster fronting up for 70 minutes, but ultimately the class of the likes of Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa and Juan Imhoff, operating behind a heavy-duty pack, was too much.

That trio crossed for Racing tries in the closing 10 minutes of the contest as they blew the visitors away after a relatively ding-dong battle but Munster can’t complain after being beaten by the better team.

peter-omahony-after-the-game Munster were left dejected in Paris. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was a thrilling game at times but this defeat all but confirms that Munster will exit the Heineken Champions Cup at the pool stages. They still have one more game, at home to the Ospreys in Thomond Park next weekend, but even a bonus-point win there would leave them on just 17 match points overall.

That almost certainly won’t be enough for them to emerge as one of the best pool runners-up and Johann van Graan’s men will instead have to focus their attention on the Guinness Pro14 as they search for silverware. Racing, meanwhile, march on as Pool 4 winners with a visit to Saracens to come next weekend.

Munster were physical and confrontational in Paris, starting strongly, but Racing always had more attacking class, more quality, more ball-carrying dynamism, and more try-scoring potential.

Halfbacks Teddy Iribaren and Finn Russell were influential for the hosts, while Thomas was lethal in scoring a brace as Vakatawa tore Munster’s defence to shreds at times. 

In contrast, Munster’s attack virtually never looked truly threatening, their only try of the game coming from Andrew Conway’s intercept score, which left them 16-11 ahead at the half-time break.

But there was always a sense that if Racing could distil their quality into a focused surge of attack, they would finish over the top of Munster and that proved to be the case as Racing’s backline stars finished the job.

Van Graan and co. will fly home tonight with plenty of wounds to lick. They might also have some 

peter-omahony-makes-his-way-onto-the-pitch Peter O'Mahony leads Munster out. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster’s strong start had them 9-0 in front by the 17th minute, with JJ Hanrahan accurate off the tee. His first strike came when Racing edged offside following a powerful opening passage of attacking by the visitors before he doubled the advantage when his pack won a scrum penalty.

Racing captain Henry Chavancy failed to roll away from a tackle in his own 22 soon after for the third Munster shot at goal, but then a naive penalty concession by Munster lock Jean Kleyn for blocking off the ball following the restart allowed Racing into the game.

Teddy Iribaren slotted the three points and suddenly the Top 14 side came alive, ensuring Munster soon needed a superb try-saving tackle from captain Peter O’Mahony to prevent Finn Russell from crossing. It came at the end of a sublime passage of Racing attack starring Virimi Vakatawa’s offloading class but O’Mahony had enough pace to cover across and make a one-on-one tackle on Russell just metres out, the Scottish out-half then penalised for not releasing the ball when he was grounded.

But with Vakatawa on fire, Racing kept coming and they had their try in the 30th minute after Mike Haley was forced to carry back over his own tryline sweeping up a Racing kick, handing them a five-metre scrum.

Vakatawa dropped a pass from Iribaren in midfield but the scrum-half scooped the ball back up and then threw a stunning underhand reverse pass that soared 25 metres across the pitch, bypassing two team-mates and two Munster defenders, for Teddy Thomas to cross wide on the right.

teddy-thomas-scores-a-try Thomas scored for Racing off the back of a wonder pass by Iribaren. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Referee Wayne Barnes checked Vakatawa’s spill with his TMO, Rowan Kitt, but couldn’t find an angle that showed it had gone forward and confirmed the try, which was all about Iribaren’s supreme pass. 

Though Iribaren missed the conversion, he did punish O’Mahony for getting trapped in a ruck and, therefore, failing to roll away two minutes later, his 47-metre penalty sending Racing 11-8 in front.

Hanrahan missed a shot from a similar distance after Vakatawa slapped down the ball on a promising Munster strike play from lineout, and it looked as though Racing would finish the half over the top of the Irish province.

Left wing Juan Imhoff scythed through Munster’s defence off a Russell inside pass, taking them roaring back into the 22 and in prime position to score. The ball was shifted wide left, where a two-man overlap awaited but Andrew Conway produced a huge play as he opted to shoot up and pick off Chavancy’s pass.

The Ireland wing’s pace took him all the way home at the other end, despite Thomas’ rapid effort to get back, and Hanrahan was able to convert for a 16-11 Munster lead at half-time.

andrew-conway-scores-a-try Conway streaks away to score for Munster. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A lineout steal by O’Mahony, followed by Bird failing to roll, allowed Munster an early second-half shot in the Racing 22 but Racing’s loosehead, Eddy Ben Arous, produced a breakdown turnover penalty to lift the pressure as van Graan’s men missed their chance.

Down the other end minutes later, Racing made their threatening visit pay as Stephen Archer was caught offside and Iribaren drew the hosts back within two points of Munster.

But Munster then fired a swift response as Keith Earls broke on kick return, offloading to the impressive Jack O’Donoghue and sparking them to earn a penalty as Russell took out scrum-half Murray, Hanrahan notching the three points off the tee for a 19-14 advantage.

There was frustration for Munster off the restart again, however, as they attempted to run out of their own 22 and Haley’s pass was picked off by Imhoff, Munster then knocking-on in a recovery tackle and winning a penalty off the ensuing scrum as Murray tackled high on Antonie Claassen. Iribaren made it 19-17.

Racing finally took the lead for the first time in the 57th minute, a momentuous passage leading to Iribaren’s penalty shot. The scrum-half quick tapped a penalty in his own half, then Russell stepped CJ Stander for a huge linebreak and a couple of phases later, Stander was pinged for slapping down Russell’s pass. Iribaren made no mistakes from straight in front.

jj-hanrahan-kicks-at-goal The sides exchanged penalties in the third quarter. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

An excellent grubber and chase from Conway, after Haley’s strong aerial take, saw him force Iribaren to carry into touch five metres out from his own tryline, though, and Munster were back in prime position as the game entered the final quarter.

Outside centre Farrell was held up over the tryline on the first impactful attack from the scrum but Racing crept offside as Munster attacked from the five-metre scrum, the penalty allowing Hanrahan to nudge his team back in front at 22-20.

As the game ticked into the closing 10 minutes, the tension was palpable, Munster sensing their opportunity and enjoying a spell of possession but some loose passing by Jean Kleyn and then a Camille Chat strip in the tackle meant they came away with nothing.

Just like that, the game swung back into Munster’s 22 and Racing unleashed another wave of powerful momentum at the Irishmen. Heavy carries in close resulted in Russell having the time and space to fire a cross-field kick into the in-goal area where it bounced before Thomas somehow managed to reel it in and dot down in the last inches before the deadball line. 

It was a stunning finish, again confirmed by TMO review, and though replacement scrum-half Maxime Machenaud missed the conversion, Racing were 25-22 to the good.

teddy-thomas-celebrates-his-try Teddy Thomas scored a brace for Racing.

A big turnover just inside their own half denied Munster the chance to build towards a possible reply and that proved to be it. Racing finished right over the top of them with two late tries through Vakatawa and Imhoff, their pace and power coming to the fore as Munster faded away.

Racing scorers:

Tries: Teddy Thomas [2], Virimi Vakatawa, Juan Imhoff

Conversions: Teddy Iribaren [0 from 2], Maxime Machenaud [2 from 2]

Penalties: Teddy Iribaren [5 from 5]

Munster scorers:

Tries: Andrew Conway

Conversions: JJ Hanrahan [1 from 1]

Penalties: JJ Hanrahan [5 from 6]

RACING 92: Brice Dulin; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy (captain) (Olivier Klemenczak ’72), Juan Imhoff; Finn Russell (Ben Volavola ’78), Teddy Iribaren (Maxime Machenaud ’70); Eddy Ben Arous (Hassane Kolingar ’55), Camille Chat (Teddy Baubigny ’70), Ben Tameifuna (Cedate Gomes Sa ’55); Boris Palu, Dominic Bird (Baptiste Chouzenoux ’65); Wenceslas Lauret (Fabien Sanconnie ’72), Bernard Le Roux, Antonie Claassen.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley (Shane Daly ’78); Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell (Dan Goggin ’78), Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray (Craig Casey ’78); Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman ’65), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’78), Stephen Archer (John Ryan ’65); Jean Kleyn (Arno Botha ’70), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Jack O’Donoghue (Chris Cloete ’72), CJ Stander.

Referee: Wayne Barnes [RFU].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Paris

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