Thrilling draw leaves Munster in European limbo

Munster must once again do things the hard way in the Champions Cup after their heart-stopping draw with Racing 92 at Thomond Park last weekend. On Saturday evening Munster played out a thrilling 21-21 draw with Racing 92 in their second group game.

Heineken Champions Cup Round 2, Thomond Park, Limerick, 23/11/2019 Munster vs Racing 92 Munster’s Mike Haley with Finn Russell of Racing 92 Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

With away games against Saracens and Racing to come, it is likely that Johann van Graan’s men will need to win either of those games to progress to the knockout stages. For Munster head coach, Johann van Graan the game could have gone either way in a classic encounter between two of Europe’s very best.

“Very tough game. Literally two heavyweight boxers who went at each other until the very last second of the game. I thought our bench made a brilliant impact. If that drop goal goes over then it’s a different ball game but all credit to Racing. I thought they came to play. We could have lost it, but we also most certainly could have won it right at the death.

“I think that’s what Munster is about. A lot of teams would have given up, but we just kept fighting and never gave up. These 23 players, this club doesn’t know how to give up even when the odds are against you. I thought the players gave it their all and the crowd played a massive part. We’ll take our points and move on.”

That draw keeps the sides level on the top of Pool 3 with seven points each. Saracens lie in third place in the Pool after their 44-3 win over bottom of the pile Ospreys on Saturday. Munster welcome defending champions Saracens to Thomond Park in their next European clash on December 7.

Heineken Champions Cup Semi-Final, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England 20/4/2019 Saracens vs Munster Munster’s Conor Murray dejected after the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

After the draw with Racing, that game becomes a must win but van Graan is calm after seeing his side off to similar starts in the previous two years.

“You have to take history into consideration. The last two years we drew our first game and won our second. This year we won the first and drew the second. That bonus point last week was important and the fact we leave with two points each means we are joint top of the pool with Racing.”

Captain Peter O’Mahony was more critical of his teams’ performance stating that the result flattered Munster despite some positive play.

“At around 50 minutes we shouldn’t have been next or near a draw but with ten minutes to go, we could have won it. I don’t think we played well enough to win the game if I’m totally honest with you.

“Three mental lapses will cost you against sides like that. I thought they played really well, we played some good rugby too, but I think it flattered us getting a draw with the way they played and the way we played, would be my gut feeling. We’re never a team to roll over, particularly not at home and got the two points which will stand to us.”

Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final, La Defense Arena, Paris, France 31/3/2019 Racing 92 vs Toulouse Racing’s Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo after the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

O’Mahony also acknowledged the returning Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan who were playing at Thomond Park for the first time since their departures to Paris.

“Good to have them home but they’re not in the right coloured jersey unfortunately so they are just another opposition player when you’re out there.”

While the clash with Saracens in just over a week is sure to be on the mind of van Graan and the players alike, next up for Munster is domestic action against Edinburgh this Friday night in Irish Independent Park.

After a European back-to-back, and another one soon to come, there promises to be plenty of changes to the team. However, van Graan will be keen to maintain their status at the top of their domestic conference with the Provinces increased strength in depth needed ahead of the busy festive schedule.

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