Heineken Champions Cup: Munster all but out of Europe after Racing defeat

Heineken European Champions Cup Pool Four
Racing 92 (11) 39
Try: Thomas (2), Vakatawa, Imhoff Con: Machenaud (2) Pen: Iribaren (5)
Munster (16) 22
Try: Conway Con: Hanrahan Pens: Hanrahan (5)

Munster’s slim hopes of progressing in the European Champions Cup suffered a blow after a 39-22 defeat by Racing 92.

Andrew Conway’s superb intercept try cancelled out Teddy Thomas’ opener to give Munster the lead at the break.

After a tense 70 minutes, late tries from Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa and Juan Imhoff secured Racing’s spot in the quarter-finals.

Munster need a bonus-point win and results to go their way in the final Pool games if they are to progress.

  • 14-man Saracens beat Ospreys to keep hopes alive

The early stages of the game were firmly in Munster’s favour, with JJ Hanrahan kicking three penalties in the opening 17 minutes.

Teddy Iribaren got the hosts on the board after Jean Kleyn was pinged by Wayne Barnes at the breakdown.

The hosts began to exert some pressure as the half grew on, with Finn Russell chopped down by Peter O’Mahony when he looked set to score.

Racing did cross the line on the half-hour mark when Thomas was afforded far too much time and space, with the winger driving over after some superb play by Iribaren.

Heineken Champions Cup Pool Four
Played Wins Draws Losses Points
Racing 92 5 4 1 0 22
Saracens 5 3 0 2 14
Munster 5 2 1 2 11
Ospreys 5 0 0 5 2

The in-form scrum-half missed the tricky conversion, but made amends two minutes later by kicking Racing into the lead with a long-range penalty.

Hanrahan then missed a long-distance attempt of his own as Johann van Graan’s men searched for an immediate response.

Despite looking like their backs were against the wall after more constant Racing pressure, Conway’s stunning 80-metre intercept try put Munster into the lead at the break.

The winger’s brilliant read cut out an almost certain Racing try, before sprinting clear and touching down at the other end. Hanrahan converted to put the visitors into a five-point lead at half-time.

Racing’s power hard to handle

The pressure from Munster returned after the restart, disrupting several home lineouts, but Iribaren knocked over a penalty after many probing phases.

Hanrahan kicked his fourth penalty to offer a brief reprieve, but Iribaren twice split the posts from the tee to give the hosts a one-point advantage with 20 minutes to play.

Chris Farrell was held up over the line by a brilliant tackle from Vakatawa, with the following phases seeing Munster trying to puncture the home line but with little effect. Hanrahan kicked a penalty to nudge the Irish outfit in front once more.

However with 10 minutes to go, the game turned on a moment of brilliance from Thomas, who got a hand on Russell’s deep cross-field kick, with the French international just getting enough pressure on the ball before it bounced out of play.

Virimi Vakatawa celebrates<!–

Munster’s hopes of snatching something from the game were kept alive when Maxime Machenaud missed the conversion from out wide, however the hosts came up with a crucial turnover soon after the restart.

After several phases, the superb Vakatawa grabbed Racing’s third try to put the result of the game beyond doubt, with Machenaud this time making no mistake to convert and stretch their lead to 10 points.

The province’s misery was compounded with the final play of the game as Imhoff darted over, which capped off a dismal final 10 minutes in the French capital.

Racing’s victory means they have qualified for the last eight and will aim to secure a home quarter-final when they travel to take on Saracens next Sunday.

Winless Ospreys travel to Thomand Park to take on Munster, who need to secure a bonus-point win and hope Racing beat Saracens, along with favourable results in other Pools, if they are to make the knockout stages.

Racing 92: Dulin; Thomas, Vakatawa, Chavancy (capt), Imhoff; Russell, Iribaren; Ben Arous, Chat, Tameifuna, Palu, Bird, Lauret, Le Roux, Claassen.

Replacements: Baubigny, Kolingar, Gomes, Ryan, Sanconnie, Machenaud, Volavola, Klemenczak.

Munster: Haley; Conway, Farrell, R Scannell, Earls; Hanrahan, Murray; Kilcoyne, N Scannell, Archer; Kleyn, Holland, O’Mahony (capt), O’Donoghue, Stander.

Replacements: O’Byrne, Loughman, J Ryan, Botha, Cloete, Casey, Goggin, Daly.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

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