– By James Clancy
Munster 21-21 Racing
A late Andrew Conway try and touchline JJ Hanrahan conversion saved a draw for Munster against a quality Racing 92 outfit in the Champions Cup at a sold-out Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
Munster’s late comeback very nearly earned the victory but Hanrahan, moments after a stunning leveller, was unable to land the drop-goal.
The two points keep Munster and Racing tied at the top of Pool four on seven apiece with Saracens second on five points.
Hanrahan’s first penalty from long-range after eight minutes got Munster off the mark but Racing showed their intent with the first try ten minutes later.
An uncharacteristic Munster error in the lineout gave the visitors the perfect platform and Finn Russell dinked through the defence to score. Teddy Iribaren, a late inclusion in place of Maxime Machenaud, converted to make it 7-3.
A scrum penalty for Munster after 26 minutes gave Hanrahan his second three-pointer but Racing again responded with a try.
This time it was Teddy Thomas as good hands released the winger down the right flank and he chipped over the last man and ran in under the posts. Iribaren made it 14-6 with half an hour played.
Munster came roaring back and opted to go for the corner after a promising attack was stopped by Racing taking a man off the ball.
After a strong maul, Munster went wide with Chris Farrell making good yards before Tadhg Beirne was held up. We had been playing advantage with Munster opting for a quick tap and Hanrahan was just stopped from touching down with the ball going forward.
The province weren’t to be denied and Keith Earls scored his 56th try for the province in the final play of the half. The hosts shifted the ball left through slick hands and Earls finished brilliantly.
Hanrahan levelled matters six minutes into the second half with his third penalty after Racing were pinged for not rolling away after a slick backline move.
Juan Imhoff was in for Racing’s third try on 48 minutes after another Russell break. The out-half spotted Jeremy Loughman limping and targeted the prop to make a break and then popped for Imhoff to score. Iribaren converted and Racing led 21-14.
It looked as if the game was drifting away from Munster as Racing held the hosts at arm’s length but the province’s never-say-die attitude was to the fore in the final 10 minutes.
After piling huge pressure on the Racing line, Munster needed a moment of magic and Hanrahan produced with a perfectly floated pass to Conway for the winger to score his sixth try in six games.
Munster needed the touchline conversion to draw level and Hanrahan produced the perfect kick to level it up.
Johann van Graan’s side still had time to win it and were camped deep in Racing territory late on but Hanrahan’s drop-goal went left and wide.
Munster continued an unbeaten home record that stretches back to December 2017.
Jeremy Loughman (ankle) limped off in the second half and will be assessed by the medical team.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson, 62) ; Jeremy Loughman (James Cronin, 50), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne, 65), John Ryan (Stephen Archer, 54); Jean Kleyn (Fineen Wycherley, 54), Tadhg Beirne (Billy Holland, 62); Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue (Arno Botha, 54), CJ Stander.
Man of the Match: Mike Haley.