Finn Russell Racing run out clear winners as Munster’s hopes fade into the distance

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Racing 39 Munster 22

The final scoreline hardly tells the tale of this absorbing contest, but then again it was hard to argue with as well. Munster were brave beyond doubt, and even led inside the final 10 minutes before Racing sprinted to the finishing line with a late triple whammy.

Ultimately too, a try count of four to one – with Munster’s coming from an intercept – was also hard to argue with.

The net effect means that Racing have topped Pool 4 and secured a place in the quarter-finals. They may need a win to ensure a home quarter-final, and Munster will need them to beat Saracens in Allianz Park next Sunday to have a chance of finishing runners-up.

Even then they will need two of the other pool second-placed sides to slip up next week, ie two from Northampton away to Lyon, Glasgow away to Sale or Gloucester away to Toulouse. In all likelihood, their goose will have been cooked come kick-off at home to the Ospreys next Sunday.

Ominously, Racing always had the better of the collisions and the gainline, and had already looked more potent from the second quarter on. Then with the game still in the balance, had way more oomph off the bench. Tellingly, although visibly wilting, Munster only made a quartet of replacements with the game up in the 78th minute.

Finn Russell Niall Scannell tries to charge down Finn Russell during Racing 92’s win over Munster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Niall Scannell tries to charge down Finn Russell during Racing 92’s win over Munster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Heaven knows the discrepancy in playing budgets between these sides – not to mention Saracens – but it was neatly summed up in Racing bringing on Maxime Machenaud at scrumhalf whereas the IRFU decreed that Alby Mathewson was surplus to Munster’s requirements after the initial draw between the two at Thomond Park in November.

A sizeable contingent from the Red Army would only have been encouraged when news filtered through that an unwell Donnacha Ryan, who had been named on the bench, had been ruled out, and also by their team’s start.

Hanrahan ran back Teddy Iribaren’s first kick and with David Kilcoyne, particularly, injecting real oomph into his carries, Munster went through over a dozen phases.

Racing went offside, in truth for about the fourth time, for Hanrahan to open the scoring, and when Juan Imhoff knocked on a quick throw by Finn Russell, the Parisians were pinged for whipping the scrum and Hanrahan doubled the lead.

Better still Henry Chavancy compounded a knock-on from Racing’s first wave of attacks by clearly not rolling away under his posts as Munster ran hard at the gainline and recycled inside the Racing 22 off a lineout.

Finn Russell JJ Hanrahan scored 17 points during Munster’s defeat in Paris. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
JJ Hanrahan scored 17 points during Munster’s defeat in Paris. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Hanrahan made it 9-0 and at this point the penalty count was 4-0, but this was undone by Jean Kleyn inanely and blatantly blocking Iribaren and the scrumh

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