'We spoke in the dressing room - we stick together as a group, as we always do'

Munster have been dealt more disappointment in the Champions Cup.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 12th 2020, 9:30 PM

IT’S BECOME SOMETHING of a familiar sight in recent years, although it’s usually later in the season.

Peter O’Mahony drenched in sweat, sitting at the top table of a press conference room with his head bowed, the disappointment and frustration palpable even before he speaks.

Munster have come up short at the semi-final stage of Europe for the past three seasons but this Champions Cup campaign will almost certainly end in Pool 4 after next weekend’s clash against the Ospreys at Thomond Park.

peter-omahony-after-the-game Peter O'Mahony and his team applaud the Munster supporters in Paris. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Johann van Graan’s team will likely finish with a big victory over the Welsh region but even that is extremely unlikely to see them into the knock-out stages of Europe. There is a slim mathematical chance but the dejection Munster showed in Paris after their 39-22 defeat to Racing 92 underlined that this campaign is all but over.

In the end, Racing had too much attacking class for Munster. There will be some gripes over the angles used in the TMO reviews for two of the French side’s tries but the better team won at the truly unique Paris La Défense Arena.

There are moments Munster will look back on with regret as they fly home tonight, but they were second best in Paris. Now all that’s left in their European campaign is giving next weekend’s home support something to cheer about.

“There’s always things that you would take back or do differently but you can’t change them now,” said O’Mahony post-match.

“We spoke in the dressing room afterwards – we stick together as a group, as we always do.

“We need to perform next week in front of a crowd at a more than likely full Thomond Park. You saw the support we had out there tonight. It’s going to be important for us to show how much it means to us out there next week, and to ourselves.

“I know how important it is to this group and how disappointed they are in the dressing room. We need a big performance next week to show everyone how important it is to us.”

In truth, Munster had already done much of the damage to their European hopes before today. A draw at home to Racing and losing the battle of the bonus points in their back-to-back games with Saracens will be regrets.

billy-holland-after-the-game Billy Holland shows his dejection. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Of course, this pool was always going to be a tough ask. Saracens are the defending champions, while Racing are two-time finalists with big ambitions this season.

“The draw for the Champions Cup comes from the Guinness Pro14, so the day the draw came out we knew it was an incredibly difficult pool playing the champions home and away,” said Munster boss van Graan after his team’s defeat.

“Then Racing are an incredibly good side, especially here – they’ve never lost a home game in the Champions Cup and I think they’re unbeaten in the last 14.

“So we always knew it was going to be a tough pool with small moments but this is why it’s a brilliant competition, it’s small moments.

“The Racing game where we had an opportunity at the end of the game to win it, which would have made a big difference in the context of the pool.

“Saracens, the finish, away. We have to look at ourselves.

“It was 25-22 with a few minutes to go [in Paris] and still in the game and we couldn’t keep them in the half. Some of their plays were fantastic in the last few minutes and once they get that momentum on this pitch it’s pretty difficult to stop.

“So, incredibly tough pool. We all knew that from the start and there’s one round to go.” 

Though another Champions Cup season looks set to end in disappointment, and at an earlier stage, van Graan took some pride in how his players pushed Racing to produce their very best in the closing 10 minutes to finish over the top.

“The players were excellent,” said van Graan. “We were in that game for 71 minutes, a magic moment there by Teddy Thomas and then we had to play catch-up against a Racing side that threw the ball around and scored those final tries.

“Big moments in the game – on 43 minutes we got penalised under their sticks and then on 60 minutes, we were over their tryline twice and couldn’t get the ball on the floor.

“It’s a tough one to take if you perform like that for 71 minutes. It’s tough to lose that way but rugby games are 80 minutes and they were just magical there at the end.”

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