Munster boss still confident of claiming home quarter-final slot

‘I am very happy with the bonus point and we are looking forward to being back in Thomond Park’

Racing’s Virimi Vakatawa and Donnacha Ryan tackle Simon Zebo of Munster during the Champions Cup game at the U Arena in Paris. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Racing’s Virimi Vakatawa and Donnacha Ryan tackle Simon Zebo of Munster during the Champions Cup game at the U Arena in Paris. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Munster director of rugby Johann van Graan is still eyeing a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup despite seeing his side lose 34-30 to Racing 92 in Paris.

Defeat at the death in the first Champions Cup game at the new indoor U Arena means Munster lead Pool 4 by a single point from Racing going into the final round of matches.

Munster host Castres at Thomond Park, while Racing have to go to Welford Road to face Leicester.

“It is in our own hands and we are at Thomond Park next week. We are right in this competition and hopefully we can get a home quarter-final,” said Van Graan.

“It was a fantastic game of rugby, although as a team we are very disappointed to lose. We put in a lot of effort and the attitude of the guys was fantastic.

“We didn’t have a great start and but for one championship-winning moment we lost in the last five minutes we could have walked away with four or five points.

“I am very happy with the bonus point and we are looking forward to being back in Thomond Park.

“We could have had a better start, but maybe the noise and the quickness of the ball in the first two minutes caught us off guard a bit.

“I thought we adapted well, but those two goal kicks that hit the post made a difference. We’ll take the point though.”

Munster’s Ireland and British and Irish Lions number eight CJ Stander was pleased to pick up the point and remain in control of the pool.

“We always knew it was going to be a tough game because they can score tries out of nothing. They started very well and we had to keep them out for a while,” said Stander.

“It would have been great to get it done this week, but now we go back to Thomond Park and get the chance to rectify what happened in Castres. If we can win that we will be top of the group.

“We need to make sure we pitch up mentally because it will be another tough game, but if we win we are in.”

Former Munster lock Donnacha Ryan played a huge part in winning the penalty four minutes from time that enabled his skipper Maxime Machenaud to kick his side back in front immediately after Conor Murray had landed a penalty from inside his own half to make it 30-28. He won the ball from the restart and earned a penalty for handling at the ruck.

“We started very well, but you know the way the Munster guys are, they play with real heart and they came back at us in the second half,” said Ryan.

“We got a bit lucky in the end and we just managed to dog it out. We were lucky to come out of it on the right side against a fantastic Munster team.

“It was really weird playing against them and they were very organised. The priority was to win the game first and we will take it from there.

“That’s the beauty of the Champions Cup – everyone will be glued to round six.”

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