By Simon Lewis, Paris
Stade Francais 27 Munster 7
Munster crashed out of Europe for the second season in succession as they went down to 14-man Stade Francais in the French capital tonight.
With two games in their Champions Cup pool still to play, a third straight defeat means Anthony Foley's side cannot progress to the knockout stages in a competition they once ruled with two Heineken Cup success in 2006 and 2008.
They were beaten by a Stade side lacking some big name players such as French forwards Pascal Papé, Alexandre Flanquart and Australian scrum-half Will Genia. They left French prop Rabah Slimani on the bench and even lost wing Josaia Raisuqe to a red card on the stroke of half-time but Munster could still not find the clinical edge their play desperately needed.
At 27-0 with less than 10 minutes to go following tries from Paul Williams, Hugo Bonneval man of the match Sylvain Macalou, Munster managed to avoid a first European whitewash when Conor Murray finally got points on the board with a try converted from the left-hand touchline by Rory Scannell but they will rue two missed first-half penalties from Ian Keatley that would have altered the complexion of this contest had they gone over at critical moments.
Munster had trailed 10-0 at half time and once again must have had head coach Foley scratching his head in bewilderment at how his team had found themselves so far behind the eight ball.
The visitors had taken the game to the Parisians in a bright and encouraging start, dominating possession and territory thanks to some more smart game management from Ian Keatley.
The fly-half, man of the match in the long awaited win over Ulster last Saturday, nearly caught Stade napping after 10 minutes when he looked to have finished off a slick attacking move featuring two great offloads, from Rory Scannell and Keith Earls, Keatley collecting from his wing and kicking ahead, his chase running down the dawdling Raisuqe to contest the touchdown, only for the TMO to spare his blushes.
Keatley had a further chance to get Munster in front on 18 minutes but missed a kick from the right that would have given the Irish side a deserved lead, despite the early losses to injury of full-back Andrew Conway and tighthead BJ Botha.
Instead, it was Stade who had the clinical finishing touch Munster have been sorely missing, centre Paul Williams running a great line to collect a pass from scrum-half Julien Dupuy, evading Dave Foley's tackle and a desparing rescue bid from CJ Stander to score the opening try, Morné Steyn converting from close-range.
It was quickly 10-0 to the Frech champions when Steyn added a penalty but the game took another turn just before the break when Raisuqe saw red, the TMO catching him with his fingers in CJ Standers face as they grappled for the ball with Munster on a penalty advantage.
All that was left was for Keatley to add the points from the penalty, just behind the Stade 10-metre line, and turn the pressure back onto the now 14-man French champions at the half-time break.
Amidst a cacophony of whistles and boos from a home crowd angry at the sending off, he failed to find the posts and Munster went in still with plenty of work to do, leaving those six points from the tee behind them.
The Irish province should have started the second half with their tails up, one man to the good and not a milliin miles behind on the scorebaord but instead it was the depleted Stade side who looked to have the upper hand from the off.
Munster failed to make inroads or their extra man count, although they had a Rory Scannell try disallowed due to a forward pass to the centre from midfield partner Francis Saili. Yet they were no match for a Stade side who despite struggling in defence of their league title came up trumps here with a less than full-strength side.
The tries came late to bury Munster hopes and the Reds looked a ragtag bunch as Macalou evaded four tackles to put the game beyond them in the 67th minute, Bonneval's score merely inflicting further punishment on a desperate day for the men in red.
STADE FRANCAIS: H Bonneval (J Plisson, 73); J Arias (J Danty, 50), W Vuidarvuwalu, P Williams, J Raisuqe; M Steyn, J Dupuy (J Tomas, 71); Z Taulafo (H Van der Merwe, 52), L Sempéré (L Panis, 47), P Alo Emile (R Slimani, 46); H Pyle, P Gabrillagues; S Macalou, S Nicolas (J Ross, 71), S Parisse – captain.
Red card: Raisuqe, 40mins
Replacements not used: G Mostert.
MUNSTER: A Conway (R O'Mahony, 9); K Earls, F Saili, R Scannell, S Zebo; I Keatley (D Hurley, 69), C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha (J Ryan, 11; M Sagario, 58); D Foley, M Chisholm (B Holland, 78); R Copeland, T O'Donnell (J O'Donoghue, 22-30 & 36), CJ Stander – captain.
Replacements not used: N Scannell, T O'Leary.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)