Wednesday 22 November 2017

Munster annihilate Top 14 champs Racing 92 in Paris to honour Anthony Foley in fitting fashion

Racing 92 7 Munster 32

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony celebrates as team-mate CJ Stander goes over for his side's second try during the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 1 match between Racing 92 and Munster at the Stade Yves-Du-Manoir in Paris, France. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony celebrates as team-mate CJ Stander goes over for his side's second try during the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 1 Round 1 match between Racing 92 and Munster at the Stade Yves-Du-Manoir in Paris, France. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Anthony Foley would have been proud.

Denied the chance to put in practise his faith that Munster could finally deliver on their European potential here in October, his team faithfully reflected their lost leader with a thoroughly professional display against the limited French champions.

Beat Glasgow, again away next week, and few will deny them that prospect on current form, and a home quarter-final beckons as they will surely railroad this French side at home, too in a fortnight.

They have a firm grip on pool one; victory next week will tighten it and then a home quarter-final may beckon as Munster storm towards the last eight for the first time in three seasons.

Three first-half tries from Simon Zebo, his 50th in Munster colours, CJ Stander and Andrew Conway, in a dominant display, set the firmest of foundations, 25-0 at half-time, for a freewheeling victory march to the final whistle.

And some small measure of closure after the tragic events of October.

Niall Scannell added the bonus point try shortly after half-time as Munster began emptying the bench, keenly aware of two more European challenges to come.

Somewhere, a Munster man was smiling down through the rain-filled clouds of this murky north-west suburb upon this emerging squad.

Racing might have had a chance in October; now they are a rabble. Racing had a limited interest in this game and an even more lmited manner of displaying it in their tactics.

Munster were afforded an early opportunity to attack from a deep box-kick, Zebo running the ball back before the ball was worked to the right-hand side, Jaco Taute before Tommy O'Donnell, passed fit after an ankle problem, off-loaded superbly to Tyler Bleyendaal.

His burst took him to five metres out before a counter-surge from the home side relieved the danger, allowing them a decent spell of early possession. They didn't do much with it but kick it away.

Munster re-assumed their territorial advantage after a high hit from Chris Masoe on O'Donnell allowed them to attack a defensive five-metre lineout, which they did successfully thanks to O'Donnell's magnficent thievery.

Noe Munster had the momentum and possession; they were denied twice by Racing illegalities on the line - during which time Dan Carter made an earlier than anticipated introduction after Benjamin Dambielle hobbled off. It was but a brief cameo.

Ultimately, Munster took the pragmatic three-pointer in the 15th minute; Racing would have settled for that but their early maul prowess was notable.

Rory Scannell was probing beautifully as one might expect from a player covering out-half; his kick behind Juan Imhoff set up another chance when Racing spilled in midfield in their own 22 but Bleyendaal spurned a large over-lap.

Still, they probed though but James Cronin was held up just short as he tried to burrow over; even after 20 minutes, you felt an away try would cease any potential interest the home side may have in maintaining their challenge.

Munster won a scrum penalty and chose to pack down again after minor congress; they wanted more than three points. They would get them.

A solid scrum allowed both Scannell and Peter O'Mahony to break tackles and make ground; the next phase was wheeled further left and wider and Zebo dis the rest.

It was a classic team try, their 400th in a competition they have graced for so many years, and refective of all Munster have done in recent months.

Bleyendaal's conversion was missed but 8-0 in the 24th minute represented a decent downpayment on the required victory.

Racing threatened from the restart and Munster were losing the aerial battle; Donnacha Ryan effected a maul turnover to win a reliveing scrum.

Racing were content to play dull up and under rugby; Conor Murray's first win in the air in six for his side allowed Munster to return to danger zone, winning another scrum from a Racing lineout maul.

They gained an advantage from phased play off the scrum but this time were content again to nail the three points and extend their lead to 11-0 in the 34th minute.

You felt they were ready to explode. They did, in the unmistakeable figure of CJ Stander.

He blocked Dambielle's kick, Scannell took it on and then Stander roamed free in midfield, a wonderful right-hand fend propelling him, like a whirling windmill, fully 25 yards to the line for a wonderful score.

Bleyendaal converted the 36th minute score for 18-0. If it wasn't before, now was the time to think bonus point.

They didn't have to wait until half-time to ponder the matter further; from a lineout maul on the 22 after a poor Racing clearance, Conor Murray ghosted blindside and grubbered for Andrew Conway to sprint unopposed to collect and touch down in the corner.

Bleyendaal's wondrous sideline conversion was the final act of a dominant 40 minutes; a 25-0 margin not in the least a flattering outcome.

Munster's intensity dropped a tad in the third quarter but a scrum penalty saw off the French front-row in its entirety by the 50th minute, another crushing embarassment for the sorry home side, watched by an aghast Ronan O'Gara.

That scrum eventually returned them to the corner once more and, after a series of catch and drives, and inevitable, but unpunished infringements, Niall Scannell pummelled over for the necessary bonus point try in the 55th minute from O'Mahony's latest lineout take.

Bleyendaal sweetly converted for 32-0 and now we were into the arena of accountancy, perhaps still key if this group concertinas.

Racing scored a late, freak breakaway try, a Keystone Cops effort in tune with their day's efforts, Matthew Voisin pouncing after a Dan Carter grubber and a follow-up agricultural hack.

The home punters in the 9,233 crowd, liberally sprinkled with Munster red, celebrated as if they were re-living last year's French title triumph; they're easily pleased in these parts, clearly.

Munster left with a more rounded sense of satisfaction. A much more pleasant flight home from Paris awaits them this time. They leave in hope this time, rather than despair.

Racing 92 - J Imhoff; J Rokocoko, C Laulala (H Chavancy 57), T Tuitavake, T Thomas (D Carter 57); B Dambielle, X Chauveau; K Vartanov (J Brugnaut 50), C Chat (V Lacombe 50), L Ducalcon (C Gomes Sa 50), G Grobler, F van der Merwe (A Williams 63), C Masoe capt (S Fa'aso'o 57), M Voisin, A Claassen.

Munster - S Zebo; A Conway, J Taute (F Sailli 56), R Scannell, R O'Mahony (K Earls 56) T Bleyendaal, C Murray (D Williams 67); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 56), N Scannell (R Marshall 63), J Ryan (S Archer 66), D Ryan (D Foley 74), B Holland, P O'Mahony, T O'Donnell (J O'Donoghue 48), CJ Stander.

Referee - M Carley (RFU).

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