Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup hopes are all but over after they were beaten 39-22 by Racing 92 in Paris despite an impressive performance which looked at one stage like it would be rewarded with victory.

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The Irish side’s forwards impressed throughout against a giant French side. JJ Hanrahan kicked 17 points with Andrew Conway scoring the only Munster try.

But it still was not enough for a win as Racing secured their place in the quarter-finals thanks to a brace from Teddy Thomas, a Virimi Vakatawa effort, and Juan Imhoff’s late strike.

Teddy Iribaren added five penalties, but it took until the final 10 minutes for Racing to seal victory and break the back of Munster’s hugely committed display.

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Former Munster ace and Racing lock Donnacha Ryan was a late withdrawal from the French side’s bench due to illness and Hanrahan – passed fit despite a hamstring scare – opened the scoring.

Munster’s strong start continued as their forwards stood up to be counted. They won a second penalty after Racing were penalised for wheeling a scrum and Hanrahan made it 6-0.

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The carrying and physicality of the men in red – summed up by prop Dave Kilcoyne – was very impressive and Hanrahan then slotted a third penalty.

Iribaren got Racing on the board with his first kick after the scrum-half was needlessly blocked off the ball by Jean Kleyn. It gave the hosts confidence as Vakatawa collected a Finn Russell chip.

Thomas grabbed Racing’s first try in the 29th minute as the home side’s momentum grew. The wing scored in the corner, but Munster felt the ball went forward in the build-up.

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Iribaren could not convert but did kick a long-range penalty although it still was not enough for his team to go to the break ahead. As Racing launched another attack in the Munster 22, another home try looked certain.

Conway had other ideas as he intercepted a home pass and raced virtually the length of the field to score. Hanrahan converted for a 16-11 half-time lead.

Iribaren and Hanrahan exchanged penalties at the start of the second period in a kicking tit for tat which then saw Iribaren strike again in the 54th minute after Conor Murray was penalised.

Iribaren’s impressive kicking display continued with yet another strike and it gave Racing the narrowest of leads at the hour mark following a clean Russell break.

The outstanding Vakatawa did brilliantly to hold Chris Farrell up over the try line as Munster pushed hard, but they had to make do with three rather than seven points.

In the 72nd minute Thomas broke Munster hearts as he collected Russell’s cross-kick in the corner.

Thomas did brilliantly to score and get downward pressure just inches from the dead-ball line and the try was confirmed by the TMO after referee Wayne Barnes sent the decision upstairs.

Maxime Machenaud could not convert, but there was still time for Vakatawa to score Racing’s third try with a deadly finish from a Russell pass.

This time Machenaud converted and he also added the extras to Imhoff’s late fourth try which clinched a Racing bonus-point win and cruelly left Munster with nothing to show for their efforts.

– Press Association

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