Racing 29 Toulon 21: An incredible 14-man defensive stand added to some ice-cool kicking allowed Racing 92 and former Ireland icon Ronan O’Gara to secure their first Top 14 title in 26 years.
Racing 92 were forced to play for over an hour with just 14 men in front of 98.000 fans in Barcelona’s Camp Nou last night after referee Mathieu Raynal, who red carded Munster flanker CJ Stander during Ireland’s first test with South Africa recently, again made a controversial call.
However, a combined haul of 24 points from Dan Carter and Johan Goosen made sure that Racing’s 14 men took full advantage of Toulon’s own ill-discipline throughout.
The challenge for the defence, coached by O’Gara, increased after 18 minutes when Racing scrum-half, Maxime Machenaud, was judged to have spear-tackled Matt Giteau. However, the replays appeared to show the Australian trying to wrestle himself out of the tackle which made the incident appear worse.
Immediately Leigh Halfpenny converted his third penalty of the game before Mamuka Gorgodze scored the first try of the contest. The score was sourced in a turnover from a Racing lineout and a neat back-door pass from Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe to Gorgodze unlocked the Parisians’ defence on the blindside.
Gorgodze shot into a gap and then offloaded to Josua Tuisova, who returned the compliment to the Georgian flanker as he stretched out for the try-line.
It should have been a decisive moment, however, Toulon’s discipline was loose and they conceded six penalties. Carter and Goosen prospered to leave just two points between the sides at the break.
Toulon failed to heed the warning shots fired by Racing and they shipped a further eight penalties in the second half, while front rower Xavier Chiocci was yellow-carded.
The moment of the match came on 59 minutes when Carter ripped the ball from Giteau on the deck and off the turnover, Goosen found Joe Rokocoko tight to the right touchline. The former All Black chipped Tuisova and Bryan Habana before collecting the ball and outrunning Halfpenny to give Racing the most unlikely 12-point lead.
Despite a late second try for Toulon from Maxime Mermoz Racing held tight in front of their own posts with two minutes left which sealed victory.
Scorers for Racing– Tries:
Rokocoko 59. Pens: Carter 6, 24, 41, 57, 79; Goosen 33, 48, 52.
Scorers for Toulon – Tries:
Gorgodze 31, Mermoz 70. Con: Halfpenny 71. Pens: Halfpenny 2, 18, 23 Yellow card: Chiocci 50
B Dulin, J Rokocoko, J Goosen, H Chavancy, J Imhoff, D Carter, M Machenaud; E Ben Arous (K Vartanov 72, B Tameifuna 77), D Szarzewski (capt, C Chat 61), B Tameifuna (L Ducalcon 64); B le Roux, M Carizza (J Kruger 70); W Lauret, Y Nyanga, C Masoe.
L Halfpenny (T Belan 75), J Tuisova (D Armitage 64), M Bastareaud, M Mermoz, B Habana, M Giteau (F Michalak 64), J Pélissié; X Chiocci, G Guirado (capt JC Orioli 56), L Chilachava (M Saulo 56); S Manoa, K Mikautadze (R Taofifenua 56); M Gorgodze (V Bruni 65), JM Fernandez-Lobbe, S Armitage (F Fresia 64).
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