Friday 17 August 2018

'They started like a train on fire' - Johann van Graan laments Munster's nightmare first 23 minutes

Munster players huddle together after the European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final match between Racing 92 and Munster Rugby at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux, France. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster players huddle together after the European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final match between Racing 92 and Munster Rugby at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux, France. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Sam Roberts

Munster coach Johann van Graan lamented his side’s poor start in their Champions Cup semi-final loss to Racing 92.

Van Graan’s side were looking to set-up an All-Ireland Champions Cup final following Leinster’s victory over the Scarlets yesterday, but slipped to a 29-22 defeat at the hands of Racing 92.

Racing’s pressure overwhelmed the visitors early on, with the French side scoring three tries in the first 23 minutes through French internationals Teddy Thomas (2) and Maxime Machenaud.

Munster launched a fight back in the second half, scoring three tries of their own in the final twenty minutes, but they never looked like overhauling the 21-point first-half deficit.

“It's a tough one to take. We really believed we could do it but all credit to Racing, they started the game like a train on fire,” Van Graan told BT Sport.

"We had one or two opportunities before half time and in a game of this magnitude you have to take these opportunities

“They’ve got some incredible players. They had one or two opportunities and they took it.

“The defence has been incredible all year but you need to produce on the day. Unfortunately we didn’t have a good start and we came up maybe one or two minutes short.

“Maybe the thing that I’m proudest of is the fact we played until that final minute.”

This was van Graan’s first European campaign at Munster after taking over as coach in October, and the South African was full of praise for the club.

"Incredible support, incredible club, incredible people.

“I’ve been here for a few months and I’ve had a fantastic time, it’s an incredible squad of players.

“For Munster to get to the semi-final again is a massive achievement, but we wanted to go one step better this year, unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”

The result means Racing will travel to Bilbao in May to face Leinster in the final of this year’s Champions Cup.

Online Editors

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport