Thomas double sends 'magical' Racing into Champions Cup quarters

Illtud DAFYDD
1 / 2
Virimi Vakatawa joined Teddy Thomas and Juan Imhoff on the Racing 92 scoresheet as the French side beat Munster

Winger Teddy Thomas scored twice as Racing 92 beat Munster 39-22 on Sunday to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup.

Thomas, who was named in France's Six Nations squad last week, dotted down either side of the break leaving two-time winners Munster's hopes of progress hanging by a thread.

Racing are guaranteed a spot in the last eight as they lead Pool 4 on 22 points with title-holders Saracens eight points behind ahead of hosting the French side next Sunday.

"In the first half I felt we lacked precision when we got into their finish zone, but in the second half we managed to execute the chances we got and it was a good result in the end with a bonus point," Racing fly-half Finn Russell told BT Sport.

"Teddy Thomas is on fire. He scored one in the first half and then got us momentum in the second. He's hitting his peak form right now which is incredible for us as a team."

Munster, who are third in the group and trail Sarries by three points, must beat the Ospreys while hoping results elsewhere next weekend go their way.

Coach Johann van Graan said the game was lost in the final 10 minutes as an impressive Racing backline crossed three times.

"We were in that game for 71 minutes. A magic moment there from Teddy Thomas and we had to play catch up," the South African said.

"It's tough to lose that way but rugby games are 80 minutes. They were just magical at the end."

JJ Hanrahan kicked three penalties within the opening 18 minutes as the visitors dominated the early proceedings before Teddy Iribaren closed the gap to six points with his first effort two minutes later.

On the 20-minute mark, Iribaren threw a 20-metre pass out of the back of his hand to set up Thomas in the corner for the opening try but the scrum-half missed the conversion.

He made up for that error with a long-distance penalty.

However, a dramatic Andrew Conway try, seconds before the half-time whistle, gave the advantage to the Irish side.

- Intercept try -

Racing attacked and captain Henry Chavancy attempted to find centre partner Virimi Vakatawa with a pass and an almost certain five-pointer.

But Conway picked the pass and sprinted in from 80 metres as Munster led 16-11 at the interval.

Hanrahan added his fourth penalty goal either side of two further Iribaren kicks at goal and the Irish province led 19-17 with 25 minutes to play.

Iribaren, who missed out on selection in France's Six Nations squad, claimed a 20-19 lead with another three-pointer.

After pressure on the Racing line, the visitors were awarded a penalty and Hanrahan slotted the kick from in front of the posts for a 22-20 lead to set up a tense final quarter of an hour.

Thomas claimed his second try of the match, and his 12th of the season, as he touched down with one hand inches from the dead-ball line after a lovely Russell cross-kick.

Maxime Machenaud, on for Iribaren, missed the conversion and the hosts led 25-22 with seven minutes remaining.

Vakatawa, who was also named in Les Bleus' squad for the Six Nations, and Juan Imhoff made sure of the last-eight spot with a try each in the final three minutes.

In Pool 1, Northampton Saints kept their slim hopes of reaching the last eight alive with a 33-20 victory over Treviso and four-time winners Leinster, who have already qualified, hammered Lyon 42-14 in Dublin.

On Saturday, Toulouse, Clermont and Exeter Chiefs clinched spots in the knockout stage while Ulster, Gloucester, Glasgow and Saracens can still reach the next round depending on their results next weekend.