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Inspired Thomas leads Racing into European Champions Cup final

© AFP | All yours: Teddy Thomas passes the ball to scrum-half Maxime Machenaud for the third try

PARIS (AFP) - 

Flying French winger Teddy Thomas scored two tries in a virtuoso first-half performance as Racing 92 defeated Munster 27-22 to reach the European Champions Cup final on Sunday.

Thomas, dropped by the French Six Nations squad after a late night out in Edinburgh earlier this year, scored twice in the first half and unselfishly allowed Maxime Machenaud to claim the third inside the dead ball area.

Racing, who have never won the European Cup despite huge investment in their squad, will face three-time champions Leinster in the final in Bilbao on May 12.

Munster, champions in 2006 and 2008, were 24-3 down at the interval but rallied in the second half, scoring three tries of their own.

Leinster, the 2009, 2011 and 2012 champions, had reached the final with ease on Saturday thanks to a 38-16 demolition of Scarlets in Dublin.

"I'm happy to have got over this barrier," said Machenaud. "But we are not getting carried away as we know what awaits us in Spain. We've won nothing yet.

"We have one more step to take before we can be really happy."

Munster skipper Peter O'Mahony admitted his team lost the semi-final in the first 25 minutes.

"We knew they were going to be very strong and I think we didn't defend well enough," he said.

"They get into a rhythm and they are hard to stop with the players that they have. You are always on the back foot. They have incredible players like Teddy Thomas and one of the best defences in the Top 14."

Racing, beaten finalists in 2016, had the semi-final wrapped up inside the opening half-hour in Bordeaux with a three-try blitz.

Thomas sprinted over after just five minutes following an inch-perfect, delayed pass from Virimi Vakatawa.

Ian Keatley popped over a penalty for the Irish side before then missing with a drop goal.

That was a costly mistake as in the 18th minute, Thomas extended Racing's lead with Vakatawa again providing the crucial releasing pass after muscling off the attentions of Conor Murray and Jean Kleyn.

On 23 minutes, Thomas again crossed the try-line but unselfishly gave up his hat-trick chance to allow supporting scrum-half and skipper Machenaud to grab the try in his home town.

With the game won, Munster battled back to salvage their pride with Simon Zebo, who will be a Racing player next season, Rhys Marshall and Andrew Conway all scoring tries in the second period.

© 2018 AFP