Dan Carter moved one step closer to completing the clean sweep of world rugby’s premier trophies, booting Racing 92 into the European Champions Cup final.
The All Blacks World Cup winner landed 11 points as the Paris side ground out a 19-16 semi-final victory over mistake-ridden Leicester.
Carter already boasts four Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, nine Rugby Championship victories and the 2015 World Cup triumph with New Zealand — but he is in Europe to claim the Champions Cup and French Top 14.
Only Saracens now stand between Carter and part one of that northern hemisphere club trophy hunt, with Racing into their first top-tier European final in Lyon on May 14.
France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud claimed Racing’s sole try, with Johannes Goosen’s long-range penalty added to Carter’s haul proving just enough to edge the Frenchmen to the final.
Leicester wing Telusa Veianu’s late try set up a frenetic finish, but Racing were deserved winners as Leicester left the comeback too late.
Leicester’s frustrations were compounded by injury to fly-half Freddie Burns, who watched much of the match from the bench on crutches and wearing a protective boot on his left foot.
Shoddy handling and piecemeal fringe defence left Leicester trailing 13-6 at half-time, deservedly so given those easily-fixable flaws.
Leicester’s handling errors reached double figures in a hugely frustrating half, the Tigers too often the architects of their disjointed progress.
Joe Rokocoko made his name mixing pirouettes and power on the wing for the All Blacks, but here the 32-year-old bulldozed over the top of a ruck to set Racing en route to the opening try.
The Tigers forgot to post the ruck, and at this level such crimes never go unpunished.
Just two phases later Machenaud wriggled home, Carter converted and Leicester were chasing the game.
Goosen fluffed a long-range penalty as Racing continued to apply the choke-hold on messy Leicester.
Carter then shanked a drop-goal attempt as the Paris powerhouses refused to let Leicester settle.
And then the Tigers multiplied their mistakes, Opeti Fonua throwing an awful pass to force Tuilagi into a knock-on. Carter landed a penalty from the eventual melee, stretching Racing’s lead to 10-0.
Leicester finally troubled the scorers when Burns slotted a penalty, but he would shortly hobble off.
The some-time England fly-half stepped inside Carter for a dazzling half-break, and never properly recovered, departing gingerly with a leg problem.
His mini-break brought Leicester’s most dangerous first-half initiative, with Telusa Veianu retrieving Ben Youngs’ neat chip — only to be turned over in Racing’s 22.
Leicester did leave Racing’s 22 with a penalty, slotted by Owen Williams.
As the half dwindled out though, Carter banged over his second penalty, to restore Racing’s seven-point advantage.
Lachlan McCaffrey wasted a line-break with another cheap knock-on to start the second half, but Williams quickly slotted his second penalty after a fine Tigers scrum.
Leicester were incensed to concede a scrum penalty next, that Carter duly converted, for Racing to lead 16-9 on 50 minutes. Tuilagi and Williams spilled the ball in the Racing 22, before Peter Betham failed to find a scoring pass.
Leicester kept Betham’s attack alive however, and Veianu crossed in the penultimate minute, Williams converting to cut Racing’s lead to three points — but the French clung on.
Tries: Veainu. Cons: O. Williams. Pens: Burns, O. Williams 2.
Tait, Veainu, Betham, Tuilagi, Goneva, Burns, B. Youngs, Ayerza, H. Thacker, Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, McCaffrey, Fonua.
Thompstone for Goneva (75), O. Williams for Burns (36), Mulipola for Ayerza (63), Bateman for H. Thacker (73), Croft for Fitzgerald (47), Slater for Fonua (52).
Racing 92 scorers:
Tries: Machenaud. Cons: Carter. Pens: Carter 3, Goosen.
Dulin, Rokocoko, Goosen, Dumoulin, Imhoff, Carter, Machenaud, Ben Arous, Lacombe, Tameifuna, Charteris, Van Der Merwe, Lauret, Le Roux, Masoe.
Dupichot for Dumoulin (55), Phillips for Machenaud (73), Vartanov for Ben Arous (73), Chat for Lacombe (56), Ducalcon for Tameifuna (50), Carizza for Van Der Merwe (64).
Nigel Owens (Wales).
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