Johan Goosen kicked three penalties as Racing 92 beat Toulon 29-21 in Barcelona on Friday to claim their first French Top 14 title in 26 years. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Parisian side had to play with 14 men for 62 minutes of the final after scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Matt Giteau. But the boots of Dan Carter and Goosen kept them in the game, and ultimately won it for them.
The iconic Camp Nou stadium has hosted many El Clásico matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid. On Friday the 98,000 crowd was treated to a rugby classic.
Both sides started off cautiously, with fullback Leigh Halfpenny and Carter exchanging early penalty goals. However, in the 18th minute the scale was tipped in Toulon’s favour. They had just launched an attack from inside their 22 when Machenaud lifted and drove Giteau – head first – into the ground. After much discussion with the TMO, the referee gave Racing's scrumhalf his marching orders.
Racing looked deflated, conceding 11 points via two Halfpenny penalties and a try by Mamuka Gorgodze, who dotted down in the corner.
But after going 14-6 up just under the half-hour mark, Toulon lost their way as Racing recovered. Goosen, sporting a large gash on his left cheek, nailed a monster penalty before another Carter three-pointer closed the deficit to 14-12 at the break.
Racing didn’t send on a replacement scrumhalf for Machenaud and it worked a charm. The No 9 duties fell to Argentina winger Juan Imhoff and he did enough to get quick ball to Racing's big ball-carriers. Toulon were completely outplayed at the breakdown and conceded a concession of penalties resulting in a team warning.
Between them Goosen and Carter added three more penalties and suddenly a rejuvenated Racing found themselves seven points ahead. The momentum was now firmly with Racing as they started to dominate the scrums and lineouts, with Toulon growing more and more frustrated.
Racing fed off turnover possession and on the hour mark, after a steal from Carter, former All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko raced away down the right touchline, chipped the ball over Bryan Habana’s head and regathered it to score.
Toulon then staged a late comeback, with centre Maxime Mermoz scoring his side's second try to make it 26-21.
Toulon knocked on during their next attacking assault, but won a penalty from the resultant scrum. They opted to scrum again, but Racing made a tactical change that helped them win the game. Tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna, who had been substituted earlier, came back on at loosehead and won a relieving penalty which Carter cleared.
And when the Man of the Match was afforded another shot at goal after more ill-discipline from Toulon, he split the uprights to seal a famous title victory attained in the most adverse circumstances.
Racing 92 – Try: Joe Rokocoko. Penalties: Dan Carter (5), Johan Goosen (3).
Toulon – Tries: Mamuka Godgodze, Maxime Mermoz. Conversion: Leigh Halfpenny. Penalties: Halfpenny (3).
Racing 92 – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Johan Goosen, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Eddy Ben Arous. Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Khatchik Vartanov, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Antonie Claassen, 20 Xavier Chauveau, 21 Marc Andreu, 22 Albert Vulivuli, 23 Luc Ducalcon.
Toulon – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Joshua Tuisova, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Mathieu Bastareaud, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Jonathan Pelisse, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Mamuka Gorgodze, 5 Konstantin Mikautadze, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci. Subs: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Romain Taofifenua, 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 Theo Belan, 21 Delon Armitage, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Manasa Saulo.
Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP Photo