Munster clinched a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup after defeating last season’s finalists Racing 92 22-10 at Thomond Park.
Simon Zebo opened the scoring before the break with the opening try, as Munster went in 7-3 ahead. Ronan O’Mahony increased the lead before Henry Chavancy gave the visitors hope.
Ian Keatley went over for Munster though to seal the win. With victory needed to guarantee a home quarter-final, Munster knew it would be no easy feat after Racing dispatched Leicester in the last round.
The first 20 were evenly matched with neither side able to find the killer blow to open the scoring. Munster were arguably the better side but despite having the pressure, they couldn’t find the line.
They thought they’d opened the scoring on 25 minutes after rushing at the line but following a series of dashes, Conor Murray’s dive was ruled out by the TMO.
Things were looking up for Munster though as a man advantage followed, with Benjamin Dambielle sin-binned for a foul. And the man advantage paid dividends before the break as Munster went in ahead.
Zebo went over for the opening try before half-time, continuing his fine form against Racing before the conversion followed to allow Munster in with a 7-3 lead, with Racing getting a penalty from Maxime Machenaud to give them something to cling to.
Tyler Bleyendaal increased the lead back to seven after the break with a penalty as Munster started the half strongly, and a second try put them into the driving seat. O’Mahony went over, sliding over in the corner after another strong spell by the hosts.
The conversion followed again for a 17-3 lead, with a home quarter-final on the horizon for Munster.
But Racing themselves had hope and grabbed their first try of the night soon after. Chavancy’s effort was awarded by the TMO to get his side back in the game, with the extras cutting it back down to a seven-point gap.
But Keatley saved the hosts from a tough finale with try number three, only a minute after his introduction.
He was on the end of a Conway pass and smashed his way over to relieve the tension. The conversion was missed, but a 12-point gap was still strong as the clock wound down. And they saw it through to ensure a home quarter-final.
Tries: Zebo, O’Mahony, Keatley
Cons: Bleyendaal 2
Yellow Card: Dambielle
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Francis Saili
Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Etienne Dussartre, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 So’otala Fa’aso’o, 7 Matthieu Voisin, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Ali Williams, 20 Chris Masoe, 21 James Hart, 22 Franck Pourteau, 23 Albert Vulivuli
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)