Paris (AFP) – French winger Teddy Thomas scored two tries as Racing 92 defeated Munster 27-22 to reach the European Champions Cup final Sunday and was then hailed for his sportsmanship after giving up a hat-trick chance so that a teammate could get on the scoresheet.
Thomas, dropped by the French Six Nations squad after a late night out in Edinburgh earlier this year, scored twice in the first half but then unselfishly allowed Maxime Machenaud to claim the third try despite already being inside the dead ball area and only needing to touch the ball down.
However, he opted to pop the ball into the hands of captain Machenaud who was playing in front of family and friends at the match in Bordeaux, the 29-year-old scrum-half’s home town.
“I applaud Teddy for that. He did it for my family who were here — it was something very special to do,” said Machenaud.
“He is someone who can be quite unpredictable. Wingers, they like to score and have the stats but show their generosity.”
Racing coach Laurent Travers said he was briefly concerned at what 24-year-old Thomas was planning when he went over the try line with Machenaud at his shoulder.
“I know what he is capable of doing, he can be full of surprises,” said Travers.
“On the third try, we were scared that he was giving the ball to Max. But that’s Teddy, it’s what characterises him the most. He’s a player who has changed a lot, who has a great spirit.”
Racing, who have never won the European Cup despite huge investment in their squad, will face Leinster in the final in Bilbao on May 12.
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.
– ‘Didn’t defend well enough’ –
Munster, champions in 2006 and 2008, were 24-3 down at the interval on Sunday but rallied in the second half, scoring three tries of their own.
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.
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 before handing the ball to Machenaud to score.
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.