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Munster Team Named for Champions Cup Semi-Final

April 20, 2018 11:58 am By The Editor

Keith Earls with Camille Chat of Racing 92.

Keith Earls with Camille Chat of Racing 92. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster Head Coach Johann van Graan has named his Munster side for Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92 in Bordeaux (4.15pm local/3.15pm Irish time, live on BT Sport).

The clash will be a record 13th semi-final for the province and their first trip to the Stade Chaban-Delmas since the famous 31-25 win over Toulouse at the semi-final stage 18 years ago.

There are nine changes to the side that defeated the Cheetahs 19-17 in Bloemfontein last Friday night.

Keith Earls returns from injury to make his 150th Munster appearance on the right wing with Alex Wootton coming into the side on the opposite flank.

Andrew Conway maintains his place in the starting XV as he moves to full-back.

Sammy Arnold and the returning Rory Scannell resume their centre partnership with Ian Keatley and Conor Murray in the half-backs.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer make up the front row with dependable second-row duo Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland starting in the engine room.

Captain Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue and CJ Stander are the back-row forwards.

Rhys Marshall, James Cronin and John Ryan provide the front row cover with Gerbrandt Grobler and Robin Copeland completing the forward replacements.

James Hart, JJ Hanrahan and Simon Zebo are the backline substitutes.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, John Ryan, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland, James Hart, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.

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Munster’s Champions Cup Dream Ends In Bordeaux

April 22, 2018 5:23 pm By The Editor

Munster were knocked out of the Champions Cup at the semi-final stage for the second year in succession after a 27-22 defeat to Racing 92 in Bordeaux.

Three tries in the first 25 minutes from Teddy Thomas (two) and Maxime Machenaud helped Racing into a 24-3 half-time lead and Munster simply had too much to do in the second half.

Munster fought to the bitter end and Simon Zebo, Rhys Marshall and Andrew Conway all touched down in the final quarter but Racing claimed the win.

The Munster fans travelled in their thousands and were in fine voice throughout but there will be no visit to Bilbao as Racing advanced to next month’s decider.

Racing made a very strong start and led after just five minutes through a Thomas try in the right corner.

It was a well worked move from the Paris club with a skip pass from Virimi Vakatawa giving Thomas the space to score. Maxime Machenaud landed the touchline conversion and Racing led 7-0.

Munster fought back with CJ Stander winning a big turnover before Alex Wootton caught a Racing crossfield kick and released Andrew Conway for a run up the left touchline.

Sammy Arnold continued the attack but the Racing defence scrambled to halt the attack.

Ian Keatley kicked his first points of the day with 16 minutes played after Racing were pinged at the breakdown to cut the gap to four points but Racing hit back almost immediately.

Vakatawa again worked his magic to slice through the Munster defence before sending Thomas over for his second try.

Machenaud was again on target to push Racing into a 14-3 lead after 19 minutes.

Racing were rampant now and were over for their third try after 21 minutes with Thomas again running in before passing back for Machenaud to touch down. The scrum-half obliged with the conversion before slotting his first penalty after 25 minutes and Munster trailed 24-3.

Facing a huge task, Munster put their shoulder to the wheel and the pack won a scrum penalty to give them go-forward ball.

After going through a number of phases in the Racing 22 and turning down two shots at goal in the search for their first try, Munster were being met by a brick-wall of Racing defence.

A quick-tap from Conor Murray helped move Munster into the Racing 5-metre line before Sammy Arnold was held up and Racing eventually won a penalty to close out the half as they led 24-3.

A second Machenaud penalty on 43 minutes increased Racing’s lead to 24 points as Munster’s task grew even larger.

Munster then changed the entire front row with Simon Zebo also replacing Alex Wootton and going to full-back as Conway moved to the wing.

Rhys Marshall looked to have crossed for a try in his first involvement but referee JP Doyle chalked off the score and Racing eventually won another turnover.

Machenaud saw a penalty come back off the crossbar before Munster again pummelled the Racing line but the French defensive line refused to yield.

They had a man sent to the bin after winger Marc Andreu gave away another penalty as Munster attacked and the first try arrived on 62 minutes as Zebo crossed in the left corner to equal Anthony Foley’s record of 23 tries for Munster in Europe.

Replacement JJ Hanrahan’s touchline conversion drifted left and Munster trailed 27-8.

A thrilling Munster attack was then ended by a forward pass call as Zebo released replacement Robin Copeland down the left wing.

Still needing three tries, with the clock against them, Munster kept going and when the pack mauled their way over for Marshall to score there was still a flicker of hope.

Hanrahan’s superb conversion made it 27-15 and Conway touched down in the left corner at the death with Hanrahan again converting but time had run out on Munster’s Champions Cup hopes once again as they lost out 27-22.

Champions Cup Semi-Final Round-Up

Simon Zebo equalled Anthony Foley’s Munster’s European try-scoring record with his 23rd Munster try in Europe.

Keith Earls made his 150th Munster appearance in the clash.

Munster have been beaten at the semi-final stage of the Champions Cup two years in a row.

Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton (Simon Zebo, 43); Ian Keatley (JJ Hanrahan, 52), Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin, 43), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall, 43), Stephen Archer (John Ryan, 43-60); Jean Kleyn (Gerbrandt Grobler, 60), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue (Robin Copeland, 52), CJ Stander.

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