MUNSTER are still favourites to reach the Champions Cup knockout stages despite losing 34-30 to Racing 92 at the U Arena earlier today.
A win against Castres on Sunday at Thomond Park in their final pool game should see them to a home fixture in the quarter-final.
It had looked like they were heading for a win in Paris when Conor Murray landed a monster penalty but Racing immediately responded with two Maxime Machenaud kicks that secured victory for the French side.
Racing dominated the early exchanges and were rewarded when Yannick Nyanga went over for the game’s first try after just three minutes. Machenaud then landed the conversion to put the hosts 7-0 in front.
The Racing scrum-half then nailed a penalty to increase their lead to 10, before Van Graan’s men finally woke up.
Jean Kleyn touched down for Munster after good work from Rory Scannell after an attacking scrum. Ian Keatley added the extras to bring Munster back into it. Keatley then had two kicks hit the post.
Machenaud made no mistake with his next shot at goal to put his Racing side 13-7 up at the interval.
Things got better for Racing at the beginning of the second-half with Marc Andreu crossed for their second try after some excellent offloading by Leone Nakarawa and Nyanga.
The concession of that score didn’t seem to knock Munster’s confidence, however, as they scored 14 points in the space of six minutes.
Keith Earls, who was outstanding throughout, came in off his wing to start the move with a scintillating run that opened up the Racing defence.
Earls then took possession again a couple of phases later and was too quick for the would be Racing defenders, who were unable to stop him scoring a stunning try that Keatley converted to cut Racing’s lead to four points.
Munster were soon in again through Chris Farrell after more good work from Keatley. The out-half also converted that score and Munster were now into a 21-18 lead.
A Machenaud penalty levelled the scores but two superb strikes from Keatley had Munster six points clear.
However, Racing caught Munster napping on 64 minutes with a Dimitri Szarzewski from a well-worked lineout move. Machenaud nailed the extras to put Racing back in front.
Murray’s long range effort (his third attempt of the game) looked to have edged the contest Munster’s way but there was a sting in the Racing tail and it came from a familiar face.
Former Munster second-row, Donnacha Ryan, did brilliantly to win the ball from the restart and then Racing were awarded a penalty that Machenaud slotted over the bar.
He then made sure of the victory three minutes from time with another effort from the kicking tee. Crucially Munster earned a losing bonus point that keeps them ahead of Racing at the top of Pool 4.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander; Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, John Ryan, Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Alex Wootton.
RACING 92: Louis Dupichot, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Marc Andreu, Remi Tales, Maxime Machenaud (capt); Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Ben Tameifuna, Donnacha Ryan, Edwin Maka, Yannick Nyanga, Wencaslas Lauret, Leone Nakarawa; Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vasil Kakovin, Cedate Gomes Sa, Babtiste Chouzenoux, Boris Palu, Xavier Chauveau, Joe Rokocoko, Benjamin Dambielle.
REFEREE: Mathew Carley (RFU)