Late penalty helps Racing overcome Munster in thrilling clash

Racing 92 34 - Munster 30

By Simon Lewis, U Arena, Paris

Key moment: Plenty of them in an entertaining, see-saw game that saw Munster take the lead for the first time at 21-18 in the 51st minute through a converted Chris Farrell try.

Pic: Sportsfile
Pic: Sportsfile

Racing levelled soon after, Munster retook the lead and then the home side regained it, only for Conor Murray to launch a long-range penalty between the posts with six minutes to go and send the province into 30-28 lead.

While it did not seal victory it was enough to guarantee the vital losing bonus point that, despite two late Machenaud penalties giving Racing the win, keeps Munster in the driving seat for the quarter-finals.

Talking point: While there was much to admire about Racing 92's spectacular indoor U Arena, the dazzling light show, the giant screen at one end and a deafening public address pre-game could not engineer a proper big-game atmosphere with the teams playing in an eerily quiet stadium for long periods. A strange scenario for a game so entertaining.

Key man: Donnacha Ryan was a towering presence against his old club, his claiming of a Racing restart leading to the penalty which helped his side edge back in front at 31-30 while his relentless chasing down of Ian Keatley forced a sliced clearance kick from the fly-half which would result in an even later penalty.

Racing should have kicked to the corner to take control of the group but instead went for the posts but that did not detract from Ryan's sterling work.

For Munster, Keith Earls looked back to his brilliant best on the Munster wing, looking to have lost none of his frightening pace and sharpness with the hamstring injury he suffered in early November.

Pic: Sportsfile
Pic: Sportsfile

He scored one try brilliantly, starting and finishing the move with wonderful footwork while the way he picked a pass from Simon Zebo off his bootstraps at pace was an excellent piece of skill that will have given his prospects of starting the Six Nations a brilliant boost in wake of competition from young guns Jacob Stockdale and Jordan Larmour.

Ref watch: Munster struggled to get on the right side of English referee Matthew Carley throughout the first half, conceding a procession of ruck penalties, their frustration emphasised by captain Peter O'Mahony on the stroke of half-time, his questioning of the official after being pinged at a breakdown costing his side 10 metres for dissent and with it a soft three points for Maxime Machenaud.

Penalties conceded: Racing 11 Munster 11

Injuries: No apparent injuries for Munster although captain Peter O'Mahony did not look entirely comfortable throughout and was replaced on 55 minutes. The artificial 4G pitch did not seem to claim any casualties though.

Next up: It's down to the final round in pool four next Sunday with Munster, still leading the group by a point, hosting Castres at Thomond Park and Racing having to travel to Welford Road to play Leicester Tigers.

Full report:

An immense kicking display by Racing 92 skipper Maxime Machenaud, including two penalties in the closing four minutes, snatched victory from Munster to leave Pool 4 in the Champions Cup wide open.

Munster still lead the French side by a point, but will now have to beat Castres at home in the final round at Thomond Park to guarantee winning the pool and staying in the hunt for a home quarter-final.

All that might have been different had Racing gone for a bonus-point try when they picked up a penalty 10 metres out from the Munster posts two minutes from time, leading 31-30. They went for the points instead and only picked up four points for the win instead of a possible five.

In a thrilling game under the closed roof at Racing's new Parisian home at the U Arena, the lead changed hands no fewer than four times in the second half in the first Champions Cup match played at the venue.

Racing travel to Welford Road to face Leicester in round six knowing they must win to stay in contention for a trip to the last eight. If they can get off to a similar start to the one they fashioned at home then they will give themselves a great chance.

Pic: Sportsfile
Pic: Sportsfile

A week after hammering Clermont Auvergne 58-6 at their new home they raced into a 10-point lead with a try from flanker Yannick Nyanga after only three minutes and a conversion and penalty from Machenaud. The scrum-half kicked six out of seven in the win over Clermont and he was even better against Munster with seven out of eight for a match tally of 19 points.

The Munster goal-kicking suffered by comparison as both Ian Keatley and long-range specialist Conor Murray hit the post in the first half. Murray also missed with another effort in the second half.

Lock Jean Kleyn reached out in the first half to score the first of Munster's three tries, with Keatley adding the conversion, but another Machenaud penalty made it 13-7 at the break.

Marc Andreu dived over in the left corner four minutes into the second half to stretch the lead but Munster's response was swift and two tries in the space of five minutes from the brilliant Keith Earls and midfield blockbuster Chris Farrell put them into the lead at 21-18.

Machenaud levelled matters with another penalty when Stephen Archer was penalised for popping out of a scrum on 54 minutes.

Two Keatley penalties edged Munster back in front before replacement hooker Dmitri Szarzewski raced around the front of a line-out 20 metres out to score a try that Machenaud improved to make it 28-27.

Murray's kick from just inside his own half on 75 minutes edged his side back in front 30-28 and it looked as though the two-time champions were going to clinch their ticket into the knock-out stages with a week to spare.

But from the restart their former second-rower Donnacha Ryan grabbed the ball and earned his side a penalty. Machenaud made it 31-30 before knocking over the final kick two minutes from time to make victory safe.

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