Devastating finishing in the final 10 minutes sent Racing 92 into the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals as the Parisians finally broke Munster’s brave resistance and left their hopes of progressing to the knockout rounds hanging by a slender thread.
Late tries from Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa and Juan Imhoff broke Munster hearts after the visitors had begun the final quarter holding a 22-20 lead.
As Munster left La Défense Arena needing a miracle from the final round to have any chance of reaching the quarter-final as a best runner-up, head coach Johann van Graan can only wonder what might have been had JJ Hanrahan’s late drop goal attempt against Racing in Limerick not missed the target in round 22, consigning his side to a draw rather than the home win vital to any club’s European success in the group stages, never mind a “pool of death” such as this.
Their Pool 4 campaign was struggling from that moment and Racing ultimately proved to be a cut above their Irish rivals.
Wing Teddy Thomas was in devastating form for Racing 92, his killer instinct and clinical finishing too potent for Munster to deal with on a night when he scored the first two tries to give his side a home quarter-final with a week to spare.
Wayne Barnes made full use of his Television Match Official, fellow Englishman Rowan Kitt, to assist with two of Racing’s tries, both of which were margin calls but Munster could have no argument with the scores.
Racing 9 Munster 8
Former Munster favourite Donnacha Ryan was a late withdrawal from the Racing bench, replaced by Baptiste Chouzenoux but JJ Hanrahan appeared to successfully come through 80 minutes following his hamstring injury.
Munster welcome winless Ospreys to Thomond Park next Sunday afternoon with their hopes of making the quarter-finals all but over.
Only an unlikely collection of results can give van Graan’s side a chance of making the knockout stages and that’s only if they manage a bonus-point win to reach 16 points, a total historically too low to progress.