IT ALL STARTED so well for Munster in Paris and they were a TMO away from a 14 point lead at one stage.
However, Racing Metro grabbed the initiative and were grateful for Olly Barkley and Mirco Bergamaso penalties at the death.
Here are our player rating for the Munster team. Do you agree?
Ian Keatley – 7 Ceded the on-field authority to O’Gara early on but was forced to step up when the elder stateman went off injured. Missed one crucial penalty but recovered to land a late conversion from out wide.
Doug Howlett – 6 Was quiet enough in attack but determined in defence. Took a fine up-and-under late on but couldn’t trouble Racing on a boggy pitch.
Casey Laulala – 5 Almost cost his side a second try before half-time when he dithered over a clearance that was blocked down. Committed to the cause but failed to make his mark.
James Downey – 5 Average showing from Downey and, sturdy runs aside, his biggest contribution was going off his feet midway through the first half to gift an easy penalty to Barkley.
Simon Zebo – 8* The only genuine threat in the Munster backline all afternoon. He constantly made ground and was solid in defence. Great solo try looked to have won the game late in the piece.
Ronan O’Gara – 6 Started off in super fashion as he ran the show and directed a fired-up pack. Smart kicking had Racing on their heels but his loose pass on 31 minutes led to Racing’s first try.
Conor Murray – 4 A horrendous day at the office for Murray. Should have been yellow carded for deliberate fouls in the first and second halves. Points gained for attacking intent. Loose passing on a few occasions and an almighty brain freeze to give away that penalty to Barkley on 76 minutes.
Dave Kilcoyne – 6 Started off very well and he was obviously pumped for his first Heineken Cup start. Conceded a penalty at a crucial moment after the O’Connell TMO decision but did some damage in the loose.
Damien Varley – 5 Varley performed well in the scrum but his lineout throwing, on a difficult day, was not up to scratch. One throw missed the tail and almost led to a first-half try.
BJ Botha – 6 Got into Racing Metro faces from the outset and was a forceful presence in the first half as Munster had the advantage. Faded as the contest wore on.
Billy Holland – 6 His performance was in stark contrast, Zebo aside, to most of his teammates as he grew in presence as the match went on. Almost teed up O’Mahony for a second-half try but his kick through was bravely gathered by Benjamin Fall.
Paul O’Connell – 6 Immense stuff from O’Connell in the first half as he battered into the Racing forwards. Will be disappointed to let the ball slip, before the TMO, when a certain try beckoned. Taken off on 63 minutes.
Donnacha Ryan – 7 Never stopped battling all afternoon but was one of a handful of Munster players that gave away kickable penalties at inopportune moments. Did not deserve to be on the losing side.
Sean Dougall – 6 Good in the first half, and took his barn-storming try very well, but fell away badly as the racing pack began to assert themselves. Will benefit from this tough match in time.
Peter O’Mahony – 8 Another inspirational performance from O’Mahony as he impressed in the muck-and-bullets defending, especially in the closing stages of the first half and when posing questions in attack. Denied a try by Fall’s covering bravery.
Peter O’Mahony was a tower of strength for Munster. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Mike Sherry (on for Varley ’54) – 6 Much more control at the lineout and a good engine in the loose.
Marcus Horan (on for Kilcoyne ’73) – 5 Could do little but watch as Murray’s indiscipline took over.
David O’Callaghan (on for O’Connell ’63) – 6 Added some bite to the Munster tackling after replacing a spent O’Connell
Paddy Butler (on for Dougall ’74) – 5 Was forced to stand by and watch as Metro landed two late penalties.
Denis Hurley (on for O’Gara ’33) – 7 Did a fine job at full-back after replacing O’Gara but was culpable in the lead up to the final penalty.
Brian O’Driscoll: You have to feel those disappointments to appreciate it fully when it comes around