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Rapid start sees Racing plough through Munster to the Champions Cup final

By Peter Thompson
Teddy Thomas celebrates one of his two early tries

Racing 92 will face Leinster in the European Champions Cup final after Teddy Thomas’ early double set them on their way to a deserved 27-22 victory over Munster in Bordeaux.

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The Top 14 high-fliers ensured there will be no all-Irish showdown in Bilbao on May 12 with a dominant first-half display, a fightback from spirited Munster coming too late at Stade Chaban-Delmas on Sunday.

Munster were outmuscled by the domineering Paris side, who came flying out of the traps on a hot day, Thomas scoring twice before unselfishly gifting captain Maxime Machenaud a try rather than touching down for a hat-trick after the France wing had raced over for a third time.

Racing led 24-3 at the break and never looked like relinquishing their advantage, Machenaud scoring 12 points with the boot as they reached a second Champions Cup final – two years after losing to Saracens in their first.

Simon Zebo scored a try against the club he will join at the end of the season with 18 minutes remaining and although Rhys Marshall and Andrew Conway went over in the closing stages, it was too little, too late for the two-time European champions.

Racing made a blistering start and were rewarded when Virimi Vakatawa’s inviting pass enabled the slippery Thomas to scamper away for a try just four minutes in, Machenaud adding the extras. 

Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell failed with drop-goal attempts before the former got Munster on the board with a penalty, but their defence was breached again moments later when the dangerous Vakatawa made a break before feeding Thomas, who raced away for a double. 

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Machenaud converted and he was gifted a try soon after, the rapid Thomas proving to be too hot to handle as he darted under the posts and casually tossed the ball back for his captain to dot down.

The France scrum-half converted and added another three points from the tee after the Racing pack earned a penalty following a powerful maul as the Munster forwards struggled to cope with the fired-up Parisians.

Retaliation from Conor Murray enabled Machenaud to slot over another three-pointer, which put Racing 27-3 up early in the second half before he struck the crossbar with another shot at goal.

Munster showed plenty of endeavour and finally found a way through the blue and white wall, wing Zebo finishing following a quick tap and go from Murray just after Marc Andreu was yellow-carded following a flurry of Racing offences.

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Marshall scored a second Munster try off the back of a rolling maul and Conway raced away to dot down right at the end, JJ Hanrahan converting for a second time, but Racing had already done enough to wrap up the semi-final on home soil.

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finn 8 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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