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At the end of an exciting round 5 clash, which saw the U Arena make its European club rugby debut, it was Maxime Machenaud's reliable right boot which had the biggest say as his penalties after 75 and 77 minutes - topping off a handsome 19-point haul - saw Munster pipped in the final furlong.

With lock Jean Kleyn stretching over in the 20th minute, Johann van Graan's men recovered from a disappointing start and a 10-point deficit to trail 13-7 at half-time. A cracking 45th-minute score from the electric Keith Earls, followed six minutes later by a Chris Farrell effort, boosted Munster's hopes of maintaining their unbeaten run in the pool.

Ian Keatley landed successive penalties to move Munster 27-21 ahead early on in the final quarter, and despite a monster place-kick from Conor Murray - his first success from three long-range attempts - the visitors continued to fall foul of referee Matthew Carley's whistle and Machenaud took full advantage.

The result means Munster head into the final round on 16 points, one clear of Racing and with their destiny in their own hands. Castres Olympique are the visitors to Thomond Park next Saturday, and the province know that four points will see them through as pool winners. Maximum points will, of course, enhance their chances of edging ahead in what is set to be a furious sprint for a home quarter-final.

Giving his assessment afterwards, Munster head coach van Graan said: "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. 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'm 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 (from Keatley and Murray in the first half) that hit the post made a difference. We'll take the point though."

Soft penalties saw Munster give Racing an early launchpad and they needed no second invitation, as Teddy Thomas showed his pace out wide and Edwin Maka evaded the clutches of Peter O'Mahony. It was the influential Yannick Nyanga who found enough space between CJ Stander and Rhys Marshall to touch down from a close-in ruck. Machenaud converted the second-minute try for the ideal start.

Racing hit double figures after Machenaud's opening penalty goal punished a high tackle from Stander, but Munster finally found some rhythm towards the end of the first quarter, encouraged by an excellent turnover from Chris Cloete and some clever tactical kicking from half-backs Murray and Keatley.

The lineouts were ferociously contested with Racing's Donnacha Ryan up against his former Munster team-mates. From a well-judged Murray grubber kick, Munster were able to pressurise the Racing lineout, forcing a knock-on in the hosts' 22. Using the scrum platform, centres Rory Scannell and Farrell carried strongly before Murray fed Kleyn and he was unstoppable from five metres out as he drove over past Nyanga.

The conversion was clipped over by Keatley and as Munster attempted to add to the try, they left some opportunities behind them in the second quarter. Keatley and Murray, who attempted a 48-metre kick, both hit the same left hand post with penalty attempts, while Earls and Simon Zebo were to the fore in the visitors' best attack of the half.

It came on the half hour mark and included a terrific tip-on pass from full-back Zebo. With possession retained and then shifted back out to the right, Racing looked vulnerable but Andrew Conway elected to carry when the lurking Earls was free on the right touchline and the chance was lost a couple of phases later with Zebo turned over.

To add to their disappointment, Munster coughed up their eighth penalty just before half-time, with captain O'Mahony giving away a further 10 metres for arguing his case with the match officials. Scrum half Machenaud stepped up to drill the kick over and give the French side a 13-7 buffer at the break.

Munster fell further behind early on the resumption as Racing repeated their strong start from the opening half. Winger Marc Andreu had just enough space to lunge over in the left corner from Virimi Vakatawa's flicked pass. Nonetheless, that concession sparked some of Munster's most incisive attacking play under the closed roof.

Earls led the charge with a jinking counter-attacking run up to halfway. Ben Tameifuna was pinged for a deliberate knock-on of Marshall's midfield pass, and with Murray keeping the tempo high by tapping the penalty, Farrell was soon flooding through into the Racing 22. Some neat passing out to the left presented Earls with the chance to brilliantly cut in between Leone Nakarawa and Maka and zoom over to the left of the posts, past two despairing tackles.

Keatley converted and also added the extras to Farrell's subsequent score, as the powerful centre broke Remi Tales' tackle to cross just to the right of the posts following an initial penalty won by O'Mahony and clever passing from Stander, with a nicely-timed pull back, and Keatley whose delayed delivery opened the way for Farrell to score.

Munster's 21-18 lead lasted all of three minutes as Machenaud turned a scrum penalty into another three points, before Keatley hit back with two successful kicks in a row after 56 and 63 minutes. His first effort punished Racing centre Vakatawa for going off his feet.

The visitors continued to trouble Racing with their width, although Earls, having done the hard work in superbly gathering a low pass from Zebo, put too much on his offload to Murray who knocked on with the try-line in his sights. Despite O'Mahony going off with an ankle injury which is not thought to be serious, his replacement Jack O'Donoghue made his presence felt by turning over a Racing maul in terrific fashion before Keatley made it 27-21.

The increasingly vocal Munster supporters were quietened down by a well-worked Racing try, which saw their replacement hooker Dimitri Szarzewski throw short to Nyanga in a clever lineout move and then take the return pass to crash over in the right corner. Machenaud's conversion from out wide nudged Racing nip back in front.

In a thrilling, edge-of-the-seat conclusion, Murray had the distance but not the accuracy with his second penalty attempt. The Limerick man was soon lining up a third shot following a scrum penalty won by the province's replacement props James Cronin and John Ryan, and Murray's classy strike from inside his own half found the target for a 30-28 scoreline.

It was that man Ryan who then stepped up for Racing, crowning his workmanlike performance by winning the restart and with O'Donoghue soon whistled up at the breakdown, Machenaud nailed a difficult kick from the right to wrestle back the lead.

Indeed, the hosts showed the greater composure when it mattered most, with Keatley's poor clearance kick inviting the Frenchmen forward and another breakdown decision went against Munster, allowing Machenaud to decisively split the posts for the final time.

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