Racing cruise past Montpellier

Johan Goosen impressed as Racing 92 clinched a 40-25 win over Montpellier in Colombes on Sunday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

In the final round of regular-season Top 14 action, Montpellier came into the clash with a four-point advantage over Racing. But it would be Toulon who ultimately secured a bonus-point win over Bordeaux to leapfrog both sides to finish in second spot on the log and earn automatic qualification to the semi-finals along with Clermont, who finished top. Montpellier and Racing, in the end, will have to settle for home playoff qualifiers next weekend.

Jake White’s Montpellier have enjoyed a stellar season so far, but produced a weary performance against a Racing side that was well marshalled by Goosen, who controlled proceedings impressively from pivot.

Maxime Machenaud and Demetri Catrakilis traded a penalty each early on, but Goosen, who has slotted in at flyhalf in the absence of injured Dan Carter, then showed his full array of skills to swing momentum in the favour of Racing.

The former Springbok first struck a superb long-distance penalty before making a beautiful break and offload to put winger Juan Imhoff away for a try that suddenly saw the hosts move out to a 13-3 lead.

Just before the half-hour mark, Joe Rokocoko then stepped his way past the defence to score under the posts, and Racing suddenly looked to be well on their way to victory.

However, in a potentially decisive moment just before the break, flanker Yannick Nyanga was sent to the sin bin, and with Montpellier immediately taking advantage of their one-man advantage, a perfectly executed lineout drive enabled Akapusi Qera to dot down as the visitors reduced the deficit to seven points at the break.

Yet, that score was cancelled out soon after the restart when Imhoff went over for his second try, while Machenaud struck his second penalty of the night just before the hour mark as Racing moved into a commanding 30-13 lead.

Things went from bad to worse for Montpellier when South African-born Wiaan Liebenberg was shown a yellow card after repeated team infringements, with Machenaud knocking over another three-pointer as Racing kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Pierre Spies did hit back with a try for Montpellier, while fellow Saffa Bernard le Roux then scored one more for Racing late in the game, but the last laugh would belong to the visitors as replacement Nicolas Mas crossed the tryline with the final play of the game.

Racing 92 – Tries: Juan Imhoff (2), Joe Rokocoko, Bernard le Roux. Conversions: Maxime Machenaud (3), Johan Goosen. Penalties: Machenaud (3), Goosen.
Montpellier – Tries: Akapusi Qera, Pierre Spies, Nicolas Mas. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalties: Catrakilis (2).

Racing 92 – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Albert Vuli Vuli, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 1 Khatchik Vartanov.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Juandre Kruger, 19 Luc Barba, 20 Xavier Chauveau, 21 Marc Andreu, 22 Maxime Javaux, 23 Luc Ducalcon.

Montpellier – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Marvin O’Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Subs: 16 Mickaël Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Robins Tchale-Watchou 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Kelian Galletier, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Nicolas Mas.

Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

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Craig Lewis