Munster Rugby 21 Racing 21

Credit: @Munsterrugby.

Munster Rugby played out a draw in the Pool stage of the Heineken Champions Cup for the third year in succession as they claimed a 21-21 draw with Racing 92 at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.

Johann van Graan’s men were seven points in arrears heading into the last five minutes of their second pool game of the season, and had an opportunity in the final 60 seconds to claim victory, only for JJ Hanrahan’s attempted drop goal to go wide.

Munster, who claimed a bonus-point victory away to Ospreys last weekend, came under pressure from a powerful scrum and good French counter-rucking early doors, but Racing were penalised when No. 8 Antonie Claassen cynically tripped Conor Murray. The foul, just outside the French side’s 10m line after Mike Haley broke from half way line, saw JJ Hanrahan immediately choose to kick for the posts, with his excellent effort putting the home side into a 3-0 lead with 8 minutes on the clock.

Munster fullback and Man of the Match Mike Haley looked impressive with ball in hand, including a 20m break, in the opening 15 minutes of the game, with the English-born back causing some problems for the TOP14 side.

A grubber kick through by Finn Russell, with advantage coming to his side, was followed up by the Scot, as he nut-megged Rory Scannell, to score the opening try of the game in the 19th minute, followed by Teddy Iribaren converting for a 7-3 lead to the visitors.

A try-scoring opportunity for Munster, with an overlap at their disposal, went awry moments later, following a midfield break by Hanrahan, as an over-anxious Rory Scannell seemed to over-run the pass he was about to receive, meaning the ball went behind the Munster centre.

When Gomes Sa pushed crucidly into the scrum, English referee Matthew Carley blew for a penalty, giving Hanrahan his second kick at the posts. The Kerry-native took the three points to narrow the deficit to 1 point, heading towards the half-hour mark.

Teddy Thomas immediately replied for the French when running along the touchline and chipping over Munster’s Mike Haley, before collecting just short of the line; he then ran in to collect the five-pointer. A straightforward conversion kick from Iribaren increased Racing’s lead to 14-6 with half an hour played.

Simon Zebo soon frustrated the Munster faithful when making a try-saving tackle as Hanrahan attempted to reach for the line to touch down the ball. Johann van Graan’s men had originally been awarded a penalty, but Conor Murray decided to play the ball instead of kicking for the posts. As Hanrahan made his break for the line, Zebo’s tackle forced the No. 10 to knock on what was the hosts best try-scoring effort up to that stage.

Limerick’s Keith Earls sprinted down the touchline to bring Munster back into this game, just before the break. A beautifully-delivered Mike Haley pass to Earls saw the winger turn on the burners, and with Simon Zebo ironically missing the final tackle, the Limerick man scored in the corner. Hanrahan missed the difficult conversion effort from the touchline as Munster exited the field 11-14 behind at the interval.

Half-time: Munster Rugby 11  Racing 14

Racing hands on the ground in the first minutes of the second period, saw JJ Hanrahan presented with another kick-at-goal effort, with the kicker comfortably levelling the game at 14-14.

Matters changed almost immediately when Argentine International Juan Imhoff scored his side’s third try of the fixture. Finn Russell was again the key man, as he saw a gap in the Munster defensive effort, allowing Imhoff charge for the line to score. With Iribaren’s conversion, the French outfit was 21-14 ahead.

With the game slipping away from Munster, a wide pass from Rory Scannell out to the touchline found the speedy Andrew Conway, but despite his pace and skill, the Dubliner was tackled before the line and knocked the ball on to give Racing a defensive scrum.

With Munster camped in front of the Racing posts, Alby Mathewson, making his final appearance in the red of Munster, passes to his outside, finding Hanrahan who floated a long pass to Conway who scored in the right-hand corner. Hanrahan scored a brilliant conversion kick from the touchline to level the scores with 4 minutes to play.

Munster soon lined Hanrahan up to take a potential match-winning drop goal. With the men in red camped on the Racing line for numerous phases, the Currow man sat back in the pocket waiting for his chance to strike. He waited eight phases before kicking for goal, but his effort, inside the final 60 seconds of normal playing time, was never on target and veered left and wide of the posts. Andrew Conway, however, was called from the right wing for the ball during this period, but wasn’t given the chance to possibly claim a brace of tries, as the kicking option was chosen instead.

Final score: Munster Rugby 21 Racing 21.

Munster Rugby now head back to Guinness Pro14 action next weekend when they host Edinburgh at Irish Independent Park on Friday night.

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