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Saturday 26 May 2018

Munster record takes another turn for worse

Racing 92 27 Munster 22

FINAL CALL: Racing 92’s Donnacha Ryan (r) consoles Munster’s John Ryan after the game. Photo: SPORTSFILE
FINAL CALL: Racing 92’s Donnacha Ryan (r) consoles Munster’s John Ryan after the game. Photo: SPORTSFILE

The romantic notion of an all-Irish Champions Cup final went up in smoke in Bordeaux.

For the second successive season, Munster over achieved to reach the semi-final and under-achieved when they got there.

In fact, the Munster legend, grown out of the heartbreak from 2000-to-2006, has been undermined by the failure to build on their two European Cups in 2006 and 2008.

They entered into their 13th semi-final, knowing they had failed far more often than they had succeeded, losing eight out of 12.

By the close of business in Bordeaux, it had been stretched out to six defeats in a row.

The ninth disappointment at the penultimate stage of the competition must rank right down there with the 25-6 destruction by Leinster at Croke Park in 2009 as the most galling.

Quite simply, they failed to fire a significant shot when the game was on the line, despite two late tries from Rhys Marshall and Andrew Conway closing the distance between humiliated and humbled.

For all their shortcomings, they stayed battling right to the end because that is what they do.

Munster entered the Stade Chaban Delmas arena with a ringing endorsement from thousands that flocked to the South of France.

Munster got this far on the foundation stone of the best defence in the competition, leaking just nine in the previous seven matches.

However, this semi-final was almost over before it begun as Racing struck like lightening. Teddy Thomas, the scourge of Ireland in the Six Nations, could hardly be described as a secret weapon.

BLOCKED: Munster’s Sam Arnold is tackled by Racing 92’s Virimi Vakatawa during yesterday’s Champions Cup semi-final. Photo: SPORTSFILE
BLOCKED: Munster’s Sam Arnold is tackled by Racing 92’s Virimi Vakatawa during yesterday’s Champions Cup semi-final. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Still, Munster were powerless to prevent his two tries in the fifth and ninth minutes and a third, gifted by the France wing to his international colleague Maxime Machenaud, all in the opening 23 minutes.

Rebuttal

"We really believed we could pull this one off," said Director of Rugby Johann van Graan.

"All credit to Racing, they started the game like a train on fire."

Even then, there were multiple openings for Munster to make a rebuttal close to half-time.

They were just muddy in their approach, at one stage turning down three points to go for the corner, only for Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell to look to hastily arranged drop goals when they lost patience.

Half-backs Ian Keatley and even the unflappable Conor Murray were guilty of making uncharacteristic errors that stifled their progress.

"For Munster to get to the semi-final again was a massive achievement.

"But, we wanted to go one step further this year. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be," said Van Graan.

Munster old boy Donnacha Ryan looked to have an influence way beyond the second row's immense output on the pitch.

The reading of Niall Scannell's lineouts was too accurate to be founded on anything other than insider information.

"I'm fairly disappointed for the lads," said a sincere Ryan, about his fellow Munster men.

"I know how much it means for them."

The generosity of sentiment from the Ireland second row will not extend to Leinster in Bilbao in just under three weeks time.

"What can I say? It will be a tough battle in a couple of weeks time."

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