Racing 92 saw off an improved second-half showing from Munster with a 27-22 win in the European Champions Cup semi-final in Bordeaux on Sunday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The French club will face Leinster in the final at San Mamés Stadium in Spain on 12 May.
A furious opening quarter from Racing ultimately saw them through as wing Teddy Thomas grabbed a hat-trick, two of them assisted by centre Virimi Vakatawa.
Munster upped the pace in the second half, with wing Simon Zebo, hooker Rhys Marshall and fullback Andrew Conway all crossing within 15 minutes, but it was too little, too late from the visitors, who simply could not cope with Racing’s intensity in attack and defence in the first half.
The Parisians got off to a flying start as they played through a number of phases before Vakatawa found space and played in Thomas, who dotted down in the corner.
Munster regathered themselves and got into the right areas of the pitch, with flyhalf Ian Keatley slotting a penalty.
Racing responded in style, with Vakatawa again causing havoc as he powered through a few would-be tacklers before again setting up Thomas, who sprinted clear for his brace.
Thomas then sealed his hat-trick after a number of strong carries from his forwards gave him space and he stepped through a few poor attempted tackles to score.
Munster grew into the game as the first half went on, but with their set-piece malfunctioning, they were unable to lay a platform for their backline to execute. Some staunch defending from Racing ensured that the visitors could not add to their lead, with the home side going into half-time 24-3 ahead.
Racing started the second half with a good pace, adding to their lead with another penalty from Maxime Machenaud. Munster then took a step up in intensity, hammering away at the Racing tryline for well over five minutes.
They were aided when Racing wing Marc Andreu was yellow-carded. Soon afterwards, substitute Zebo was able to get on the outside of the Racing defence and reached over to score.
Munster grabbed their second try when Marshall went over from the back of a driving maul to make it a nervous finish, but Racing did enough to hold on for the win, despite Conway grabbing a try after time had elapsed.
Racing 92 – Tries: Teddy Thomas (3). Conversions: Maxime Machenaud (3). Penalties: Machenaud (2).
Munster – Tries: Simon Zebo, Rhys Marshall, Andrew Conway. Conversion: JJ Hanrahan (2). Penalty: Ian Keatley.
Racing 92 – 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Yannick Nyanga, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Subs: 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 – 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Subs: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 James Hart, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Simon Zebo
Photo: Manuel Blondeau/Getty Images