Munster had eked out a hard-fought win over Racing 92. Rassie Erasmus summed up the encounter with, “It was more about who had the guts out there. It definitely wasn’t perfect”.
European Champions Cup Pool 4 Munster 16 Racing 7
Storm Brian was always going to make conditions challenging in Thomond Park on a day when Munster remembered Anthony Foley with a moment’s applause from all 22,054 in attendance showing their appreciation for Axel a year after his untimely passing in Paris.
Unusually this game was scoreless at halftime as neither side gave way during a relentless 40 minutes of rugby. Dan Carter got the game underway but the ball held up in the wind before Conor Murray gathered and box-kicked to the line.
Racing was determined to get something from this game. They fought ferociously to dominate long periods of the game but met their match in Munster’s superb defensive work and had to settle for a losing bonus point in the end.
Dan Carter twisted his knee after 3 minutes when he collided with Chris Farrel and the famous All Black required lengthy treatment before continuing.
With the French men on the offensive, Munster had to be on top of their game and they were, particularly in the scrum where Dave Kilcoyne proved his worth with a man of the match performance.
Racing kept up their momentum and mid-way through the first half advanced with almost 20 phases before Kilcoyne managed to turn the ball over. By the interval, the sides remained deadlocked and it looked like something special would be required to separate them after the break.
The new half started with Racing still in the ascendancy. Their rolling maul came close with two chances before Yannick Nyanga was penalised for holding the ball on the ground.
Finally, Munster made the breakthrough after a Racing scrum in the 61st minute when the French captain Maxime Machenaud attempted a box kick but Conor Murray read the situation well and charged down the ball before running clear to cross the whitewash for the first try.
Ian Keatley kicked over the conversion and the home side led by 7-0. He could have stretched the lead but missed a fairly straightforward penalty in front of the posts.
As the home supporters became more vocal, Rory Scannell passed brilliantly to Rory Scannell, who had come in for Sweetnam after 55 minutes, to touch down in the corner. Keatley added the extras and the crowd breathed a sigh of relief as Munster led by 14-0.
Racing’s never-say-die attitude paid off before the finish when Leone Nakwrawa crossed for a try in the 76th minute and Iribaren converted.
The French side went all out in an attempt to level the game but Munster managed to hold on for a really hard fought win.
After the game, Dave Kilcoyne was awarded man of the match. Rassie Erasmus commented, “I’m glad we won, there were a few line-outs that went through our hands earlier in the game. They certainly had momentum and they had fresh big guys, so it would have been a tough ask for us to keep them out, so lucky they missed it. I’ll take that.”
Munster Rugby: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (c), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, John Ryan, Mark Flanagan, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway.
Racing 92: Pat Lambie; Joe Rokocoko, Henry Chavancy, Anthony Tuitavke, Louis Dupichot; Dan Carter, Maxime Machenaud (capt); Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Ben Tameifuna, Bernard Le Roux, Leone Nakarawa, Wenceslas Lauret, Yannick Nyanga, Antonie Claassen. Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Viliamu Afatia, Census Johnston, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Edwin Maka, Teddy Iribaren, Rémi Tales, Albert Vulivuli.
Referee: JP Doyle (England).