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Munster left smarting after Champions Cup slip-up

By Ian Cameron
Bayonne's French left-wing Remy Baget dives across the line to score a try during the European Champions Cup pool 3 rugby union match between Munster and Aviron Bayonnais at the Thomond Park stadium in Limerick, Ireland on December 9, 2023. (Photo by PAUL FAITH / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

Munster have found themselves with European rugby egg on their face after getting shocked by French visitors Bayonne, who staged a late raid to secure a 17-17 draw in the opening round of the Investec Champions Cup.

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Munster seemed in control at halftime with Shay McCarthy and Gavin Coombes crossing the try line, establishing a 14-3 lead.

However, Bayonne fought back valiantly in the second half, weathering the relentless Limerick rain.

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Junior Tagi and Remy Baget’s tries, coupled with Thomas Dolhagaray’s crucial conversion, leveled the score and left Munster stunned.

Despite early pressure from the French side, Munster responded, with McCarthy’s Champions Cup debut try establishing an early lead. Coombes powered over before the break, setting up what looked like would be a routine home win for Graham Rowntree’s men. Yet, Bayonne refused to die as a well-worked try in challenging conditions from Tagi ignited their comeback.

In the closing stages, Munster clung to their lead, but a determined Bayonne, capitalizing on a lineout and rolling maul, orchestrated a late surge. A Gela Aprasidze break lead Baget to score in the corner, which was then followed by an immaculate conversion by Dolhagaray.

A last ditch drop goal attempt from Jack Crowley went wide of the posts, sealing a dramatic draw for Bayonne, leaving Munster’s fortress breached and the French with a precious two points on the road.

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