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French side Racing 92 victorious in today’s Battle of Bordeaux

European Champions Cup semi-final:
Racing 92 27, Munster 22
A BRAVE fight-back in the last 18 minutes of today’s game in Bordeaux was not sufficient to avoid another semi-final defeat for Munster, so their dream of a first title in ten years was left shattered on French soil.
They will look back on a hesitant and unconvincing opening 25 minutes which saw Teddy Thomas (pictured) the Racing right wing, scorch the Munster left flank on three occasions, resulting in three converted tries to Ian Keatley’s lone penalty after 15 minutes.
That damage proved to be unrepairable and although the French went into slumber mode after they had increased their lead to 27-3 with a penalty on 43 minutes, Munster’s late rally proved to be too little too late.
When Munster did put decent pressure on the French, their defence proved up to the challenge, particularly in a period before half time when a Munster score could have seen a different scoreline at the final whistle.
The arrival of Simon Zebo sparked that late revival, the Racing-bound player scoring Munster’s first try on 62 minutes followed by two further tries, one each from Rhys Marshall and Andrew Conway and two conversions by JJ Hanrahan. Maxine Machenaud was in fine kicking form, contribution a try, two penalties and two conversions for Racing and for 60 minutes Munster’s game was well below what was expected of them.
So the long wait for a first European title since 2008 continues. Munster went into today’s game with high hopes and the man who was discarded by Joe Schmidt from the Irish international squad, was the happier at the final whistle. Donnacha Ryan had the inside story on how Munster play their championship rugby and Racing’s plan worked a treat (apart from a lazy second half, sometimes typical of the French when they have a healthy lead).
Understandably, the Munster fans are disappointed. It’s back to the drawing board and reflection what might have been had they got off to a better start today in Bordeaux.
Lessons to be learned, but this competition is getting harder and harded to win in recent seasons. Winning home Champions Cup are fine but you must also produced the big performances on the road.
Racing 92: Louis Dupichot; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Marc Andreu; Pat Lambie, Maxime Machenaud; Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Cedate Gomes Sa, Donnacha Ryan, Leone Nakarawa; Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga.
Replacements, 16, Dimitri Szarzewski, 17. Vasil Kakovin, 18. Viliamu Afatia, 19. Antonie Claassen, 20. Baptiste Chouzenoux, 21. Teddy Iribaren, 22. Dan Carter, 23. Joe Rokocoko.
Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland, James Hart, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.

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