And so to the match between the haves and the have-lots to wrap up the opening weekend of Heineken Champions Cup rugby. Saracens came into it whinging about the punishment meted out to them for apparently breaking their €8m Premiership salary cap.
Racing 92, surviving on an overall budget of €31.8m in the Top 14, did what most French teams do in these scenarios, just shrugged their shoulders and wondered what all the fuss was about.
The last week or two might seem surreal for Saracens as the glitter faded from their silverware in the row over the salary budget — and their decision to send a second-string to Paris and hold back their World Cup stars had an inevitable outcome today.
It means Racing 92 will come to Thomond Park on Saturday brimful of confidence after this bonus-point win against the champions.
Of course, it’s one thing producing a display in their air-conditioned arena in Paris and quite another doing it in front of a raucous Thomond Park crowd on a typical Irish November evening. But they were full of showbiz in front of 20,275 supporters today, full of running and out-the-back passes. Even Donnacha Ryan ended up playing scrum-half at a couple of rucks.
Racing 92, though, can also do the conventional well. The bonus-point try from Wenceslas Lauret came after a perfect lineout drive which they executed from 15 metres to secure the extras.
“Our set-piece was good and that gave us a good platform,” said attack coach and former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast.
Simon Zebo, whose prep time for this game was curtailed as he and his partner were expecting their third child in the past few days, was limited to a run in the closing minutes as Racing eased to victory.
The power of Virimi Vakatawa in the centre was awesome, so too was the slicing runs and brilliant offloads from Finn Russell at out-half. They oozed class all over the field and would have chalked up a massive score had they been a bit more clinical in the second half.
We know it will be different against Munster next week, but the important thing for us was to go to Limerick on the back of a win, and getting the bonus point just adds that bit extra to it. But it will be a different test,
Racing led 18-3 at the break, with Vakatawa punishing slack defending for the opening try and then a superb move involving full-back Brice Dulin, Russell and Henry Chavancy sent Teddy Thomas over in the right corner.
Saracens didn’t let the game slip away from them, and a try by Alex Lozowski five minutes after the restart helped cut the gap to eight points and give their surprisingly large number of fans something to shout about.
But the response from Racing was impressive, with Russell instigating the move which he finished off a couple of phases later beside the posts for a magnificent try. Then came the bonus point from a bit of old-style rugby on a day when most other things were more modern.
Racing now turn their sights to Thomond Park and a step back to a more traditional rugby day out. Saracens are set to drop their planned appeal against a £5.4m fine and a 35-point penalty for a breach of the salary cap — the deadline for serving notice of appeal passes later tomorrow.
B Dulin (S Zebo 74); T Thomas, V Vakatawa, H Chavancy, J Imhoff; F Russell (B Volavola 70), M Machenaud (T Iribaren 55); E Ben Arous (H Kolingar 66), C Chat (T Baubigny 66), C Gomes Sa (A Oz 66); D Ryan (D Bird 66), B Palu; W Lauret (Y Tanga 70), B Chouzenoux, A Claassen.
M Gallagher (D Willemse 55); S Maitland, A Lozowski, N Tompkins, R Segun; M Vuniploa (D Taylor 56), B Spencer (T Whiteley 60); R Carre (S Crean 70), J Singleton (J Gray 67), T Lamositele (V Koch 40); W Skelton (R Reffell 7), C Hunter-Hill (J Kpoku 51); N Isiekwe, B Earl, J Wray.
A Brace (Ireland).