Racing blitz settles Final line-up
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP CUP REPORT: Three tries in the first quarter was enough for French outfit Racing 92 to book their place in the 2018 Final.
Racing beat a fast-finishing Munster 27-22 at Stade Chaban-Delmas, in Bordeaux, on Sunday.
The French team, who have never won the European Cup despite huge investment in their squad, will now meet Irish province Leinster at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao on May 12 in the grand finale.
While the teams scored three tries each, the three early tries - all converted by scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who also kicked two penalties - gave the French side a 27-3 lead.
While Munster scored three tries in the final quarter, the last coming after the hooter for full-time had already sounded, it was a case of too little, too late.
Flying French wing Teddy Thomas scored two tries in a virtuoso first-half performance.
Thomas, dropped from the French Six Nations squad after a late night out in Edinburgh earlier this year, scored twice in the first half and created the third score for Maxime Machenaud.
Thomas went over for his first try after just five minutes, with hooker Camille Chat and Louis Dupichot making gains before the 24-year-old speedster ran away from the Munster defence.
Machenaud kept up his brilliant kicking performances in Europe this year by landing the conversion from wide on the right.
Ian Keatley settled Munster nerves with a penalty after 17 minutes, but a minute later the red shirts were under their own posts after Virimi Vakatawa burst through the Munster defence before offloading to Thomas, who had a free run in from outside the Munster 22.
Machenaud added the extras before getting an unexpected present two minutes later, when Thomas threw the ball to him in the in-goal area after looking set to complete a brilliant hat-trick.
Machenaud added the conversion and added a penalty on 27 minutes to complete the first-half scoring as the French side went in 24-3 at the break.
Machenaud also opened the coring in the second half with another penalty, but Munster started to get a foothold as the game went on.
It took until the final quarter for the try breakthrough to come. Marc Andreu was yellow-carded in the build-up as Munster put fierce pressure on the Racing line, allowing Simon Zebo to get over wide on the left. JJ Hanrahan, who replaced Keatley at flyhalf, could not convert leaving Munster still three scores adrift.
That became two when replacement hooker Rhys Marshall touched down after a line-out maul, with Hanrahan converting.
It was a brave reply from Munster and they grabbed a third try when Andrew Conway kicked through and touched down to give the travelling support something to take back to the bars in Bordeaux.
For Racing 92:
Tries: Thomas 2, Machenaud
Cons: Machenaud 3
Pens: Machenaud 2
Tries: Zebo, Marshall, Conway
Cons: Hanrahan 2
Yellow card: Marc Andreu (Racing, 62 - repeated offences, offside)
Racing 92: 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Yannick Nyanga, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Viliamu Afatia, 19 Antonie Claassen, 20 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Dan Carter, 23 Joe Rokocoko.
Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Jack O'Donoghue, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 James Hart, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23. Simon Zebo.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)