Munster suffer yet more Champions Cup semi-final heartbreak

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent, in Bordeaux


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent, in Bordeaux


Munster suffer yet more Champions Cup semi-final heartbreak

Munster's Andrew Conway is tackled by racing 92s Marc Andreu in their Champions Cup semi-final in Bordeaux on Sunday

MUNSTER’S tale of disappointment in European Cup semi-finals continued in baking hot conditions at Bordeaux’s Stade Chaban Delmas on Sunday as the two-time winners shipped a 27-22 defeat at the hands of Racing 92.

This was Munster’s sixth straight defeat in Champions Cup semi-finals in the 10 years since their 2008 final success over Toulouse in Cardiff.

The defeat shattered the prospect of Munster making it an all-Irish final against Leinster in Bilbao on May 12.

Racing, displaying admirable power and pace, stunned Munster with three tries inside the opening 22 minutes to knock the stuffing out of their challenge in sweltering conditions.

Brave Munster hit back with three tries of their own in the second period, but in truth the two-time winners were flattered to be within five points of the Top 14 side at full-time.

Munster contributed to their own downfall making uncharacteristic errors and missing no fewer than 14 tackles in the opening half.

French winger Teddy Thomas was the arcitect in chief of Munster’s downfall, dashing over for two tries inside the opening 18 minutes, while the winger handed a third try on a plate to scrum-half Maxime Mechenaud when he could have completed his hat-trick.

There was no way back for Munster against opponents who had a stand-out display once again from Donnacha Ryan in their engine room.

The Munster fans outnumbered those from Racing perhaps 60-40 and the Red Army did its best to rouse their team throughout with their passionate support.

However, Munster’s ​first trip to the Stade Chaban-Delmas since the famous 31-25 semi-final win over Toulouse 18 years had a look of disappointment about it from the opening exchanges.

Munster made the worst possible start when, after just four minutes. Tomas got over in the right corner after a good period of pressure from the Top 14 side. Hugely influential scrum-half Maxime Machenaud nailed the difficult conversion.

Munster hit back and forced a penalty just outside the Racing ‘22, from which they opted for a kick to touch.

Munster did begin to ask questions of the Racing defence soon after, out-half Keatley opted for a drop goal which was partially blocked. In a follow-up attempt for a drop goal, centre Rory Scannell pulled his effort wide.

Keatley did steady obvious Munster nerves somewhat when landing a 17th minute penalty goal, for 7-3, but the respite was short-lived.

French winger Thomas was in for his second try on 18 minutes when he cantered over from just outside the 22.

Machenaud was again on target with the conversion. Munster’s tackling was especially poor during that period.

Things went from bad to wrose for Munster in the 22nd minute when Thomas punished more slack defending to race over. But before he dotted the ball down for his hat-trick Thomas passes to his captain Maxime Machenaud to score.

Machenaud’s third successful conversion made it 21-3 and the same player landed a 26th minute penalty goal for 24-3. That is the way it stayed until half-time.

A Machenaud penalty shortly after the restart ended any hopes of Munster staging an unlikely comeback.

Replacement Simon Zebo did manage a 66th minute try for Munster against the side he will join next season, while Rhys Marshall and Andrew Conway dotted down late on to make the final scoreline better reading.

SCORERS: Racing 92: Teddy Thomas two tries, Maxime Machenaud try, two pens, three cons. Munster: Simon Zebo, Rhys Marshall, Andrew Conway try each, Ian Keatley pen, JJ Hanrahan two cons.

RACING 92: Louis Dupichot; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Marc Andreu; Pat Lambie, Maxime Machenaud (capt); Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Cedate Gomes Sa, Donnacha Ryan, Leone Nakarawa, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard le Roux, Yannick Nyanga. Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski for Chat, Vasil Kakovin for Arous, Viliamu Afatia for Sa (all 51 mins), Dan Carter for Dupichot (56 mins), Antonie Claassen for Nyanga, Joe Rokocoko for Vakatawa (both 59 mins), Camille Chat for Szarzewski (66 mins), Teddy Iribaren for Machenaud 75 mins), Cedate Gomes Sa for Afatia (79 mins).

MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (capt), Jack O'Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements: John Ryan for Archer, Simon Zebo for Wootton, Niall Scannell for Archer, James Cronin for Kilcoyne (all 43 mins), JJ Hanrahan for Keatley, Robin Copeland for Jack O’Donoghue (both 52 mins), Stephen Archer for Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler for Kleyn (both 60 mins).

REFEREE: JP Doyle (England)