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After the shameful no-show by Clermont in Belfast on Friday night this was a contest welcomed as much by EPCR as by fans of French rugby.
Yes, the first was played in the sort of weather that seems inseparable from games at that time in that part of the world; the second in perfect conditions, but without the preparedness to discommode yourself in search of the right result you have nothing. And Clermont had nothing. Racing on the other hand came to play and to compete. Against a side still very much in touch with the wonders of the Heineken Cup, that set the stage.
So from the moment referee Matt Carley drew back the curtain we knew we were in for circa 90 minutes of compelling football. By the time the curtain came down honours were even. You would have got long odds on that in the third quarter after Juan Imhoff’s try had put them 21-14 ahead on 49 minutes, but Munster battled back to make it a thrilling finish. They had a chance to win it at the death – will have been satisfied to get a share. For a long time in the second half they had been spectating, which was at odds with their intent.
The last few minutes before the break summed it up. With five minutes to the changeover Racing – leading 14-6 – survived a TMO exam on JJ Hanrahan’s surge for the line. And promptly took play off the restart deep into Munster territory. Had they worked another three points at that point it would have given real stability to how they could approach the second half. Instead the eight point lead would be cut to five.
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