Racing 92 powerhouse Virimi Vakatawa was left embarrassed and annoyed with himself after an amazing in-goal blunder cost his side a much-needed try in Sunday’s 29-23 home loss to Toulon in Paris.
Vakatawa was set up for a try by a brilliant Teddy Thomas offload but was too casual, failing to ground the ball as Toulon winger Gabin Villiere snuck up behind him. The ball was dislodged in the tackle and bounced over the dead-ball line.
Wonder offload by Teddy Thomas!— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) January 17, 2021
And then this from Virimi Vakatawa...
Well played, Gavin Villiere! pic.twitter.com/yekbu7Xoq5
The would-be try came after stunning work from Racing’s winger Thomas, who drew three Toulon players before throwing a basketball-style offload back inside over the top to Vakatawa.
The heavyweight fixture was a who’s who of global rugby, with international stars Vakatawa, Thomas, Kurtley Beale, Eben Etzebeth, Baptiste Serin, Ma’a Nonu, Finn Russell, Charles Ollivon, Sergio Parrise and Isaiah Toeava on the pitch.
Racing were 17-3, but Vakatawa quickly made amends combining with the likes of Russell and Thomas to threaten Toulon’s defence. After one break, Vakatawa linked up with Thomas with a no- look reverse flick pass. Racing then led 20-17 with a minute of the half to go as Wenceslas Lauret and Teddy Thomas crossed before Louis Carbonel kicked a penalty to bring the teams level at the break.
Maxine Machenaud and fly-half Carbonel, both included in France’s Six Nations squad, traded penalties as Collazo's men hung on for the 29-23 win.
Toulon coach Patrice Collazo praised Springbok World Cup winner Eben Etzebeth after he returned from concussion in Sunday's victory at Racing.
Etzebeth missed more than four weeks of action after suffering a head knock in the European Cup win over Sale last month.
"He played at the level we expect. Tonight I saw a very good Eben Etzebeth, like I saw very good French internationals and very good non-internationals," Collazo said. "When there are individual performances on a collective basis like that, a team performance follows," he added.
The visitors move up to fourth in the standings, three points behind the third-placed Parisians who lost for a second time at home this campaign. Racing made eight changes from the win at Clermont two weeks ago as Australia full-back Kurtley Beale was among those to return.
Etzebeth's selection was one of six changes by Collazo as they eyed just a second success on the road this season.
Also Sunday, Montpellier centre Arthur Vincent admitted his side were in trouble after Tonga's Ma'amai Vaipulu scored late in Castres's 21-19 win at the GGL Stadium.
Substitute back-rower Vaipulu crossed with eight minutes to play to leave the billionaire backed Montpellier, who replaced sacked Xavier Garbajosa with former France head coach Philippe Saint- Andre earlier this month, in the relegation play-off spot and without a victory since the beginning of December.
"Obviously there's worry when you lose again, especially at home," France's Vincent told Canal+.
"It's a very serious situation, and we all know that. We have to keep a good attitude, it's difficult.
"We're not dead yet, we still have to fight."