Munster success ends Leinster's hopes
Munster 29 Racing Metro 6:Munster took less than 50 minutes to claim their fourth try at Thomond Park, move into the eighth and final qualification spot and end Leinster’s hopes of claiming a third straight Heineken Cup title.
Simon’s Zebo second try of his hat-trick against Racing Metro after 47 minutes sent the Munster crowd into raptures as the French side, reduced to 14 men after the early sending off of Antoine Battut, failed to keep out wave after wave of attacks from Rob Penney’s side.
Ireland international Zebo proved too hot to handle for the Paris side, running in his hat-trick after 55 minutes to go with his effort in the first half.
Just five minutes in to the game, Racing were at a numerical disadvantage when English referee Wayne Barnes spotted flanker Battut driving his knee into the head of Tommy O‘Donnell. The French side still took the lead, when Gaeten Germain knocked over a penalty after 12 minutes following an infringement by BJ Botha in the Munster frontrow.
The Thomond Park crowd had to wait a some time for Munster to get into gear as they remained scoreless in the opening quarter. All the while they were dominating possession and finally made it count on 24 minutes when Conor Murray barged over for the opening try, with Ian Keatley adding the conversion.
Despite only proving his fitness on Friday, hooker Mike Sherry was having a big game in the loose and he showed the hands of a centre in the build-up to Munster’s second try as he sent prop Dave Kilcoyne on a rampaging run through the Racing ranks.
From the ensuing ruck, Munster moved the ball quickly out the line for Zebo to score his first try after 28 minutes. Keatley missed the conversion, but Munster were on the front foot now and Sherry was next to get over the line as he worked off the back of a rolling maul for the third try five minutes before the break.
Munster went in 17-6 to the good and came out with a similar mindset to attack from all quarters. It was a tactic right up Zebo’s street and the electric left-winger kicked through and collected to touch down under the posts for the vital bonus-point try seven minutes after the restart.
Seven minutes later he collected his second Heineken Cup hat-trick following his effort away to Northampton last season, when he touched down in the left corner, having been put in by Earls.
Munster will now await the outcome of the final round of Pool 2 games, where only the unlikely scenario of Toulouse picking up two bonus points in a loss to the Tigers would see the French side take eighth spot.
Meanwhile, four tries from Saracens in their 40-7 victory over Edinburgh at Vicarage Road pushed Ulster out a home quarter-final spot as they dropped to fifth in the rankings.
With Leicester winning 9-0 at half-time of the final Pool 2 games, it means that as it stands Ulster would travel to London to take on Saracens over the first weekend of April.
Munster will also be in London that weekend against Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins, while Leinster make sure that all roads that lead to the English capital as they will take on Wasps in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Cup.
F Jones; D Howlett, K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, D Ryan, P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.
Replacements:C Laulala for Downey (49), D Varley for Sherry (56), JJ Hanrahan for Earls (63), J Ryan for Kilcoyne (73), B Holland for D Ryan (72), P Butler for O’Mahony (68). Not Used: Du Preez, Williams.
Sin Bin:Butler (80).
RACING METRO:G Germain; J Jane, G Bousses, A Dumoulin, S Bobo; O Barkley, M Belie; J Brugnaut, B Noirot, B Sa, K Ghezal, F Metz, A Battut, B Le Roux, J Cronje.
Replacements:B Fall for Jane (61), J Nailiko for Bousses (75), S Descons for Belie (18), A Lo Cicero for Brugnaut (44), T Bianchin for Noirot (61), JP Orlandi for Sa (32), S Dellape for Metz (56), S Matadigo for Le Roux (52).
Sent Off:Battut (5).
Sin Bin:Matadigo (75).
Referee: Wayne Barnes(England)