Rugby

Racing hold off late Clermont charge for crucial win

2017-03-25 20:30
Dan Carter (Getty Images)

Paris - Champions Racing 92 put their off-field woes behind them, to keep alive their play-off hopes with a crucial and nervy 27-24 victory over Clermont on Saturday.

Racing's match against Montpellier last weekend was postponed over the fall-out created by a controversial planned merger -- now abandoned -- with Parisian rivals Stade Francais.

That left Racing six points off the top six play-off spots, albeit with a game in hand on most of those above them.

Coming on the back of other off-field issues including a drink-driving episode involving New Zealand legend Dan Carter and the sacking of another All Black in Ali Williams after being arrested for the alleged possession of cocaine, the champions needed something to cheer on the field.

And they put in a stirring performance for 70 minutes before hanging on by their finger-tips late on despite Clermont's Benson Stanley having been sent off.

"This season nothing can be simple and we saw that this afternoon," said Racing coach Laurent Labit.

"We were in bad shape before the match with everything that's happened.

"We were down but the problem is not falling, the important thing is to get back up."

Victory moved Racing to just two points off the top six, but still needing a strong finish to sneak into the play-offs.

Racing were out of the blocks at break-neck speed with Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa crossing for a first minute try.

Carter converted and then added two penalties, the second after Stanley was sin-binned for killing the ball.

Just after the Kiwi centre returned to the fray, his team fell further behind as compatriot Chris Masoe was pushed over from close range.

Carter converted as a one-sided first half ended with the hosts 20-0 ahead.

Clermont were denied a late first half try by the video referee but came out strongly after the break as Paul Jedrasiak bundled over from close range with New Zealander flyhalf Stephen Brett converting.

But Clermont, who were building up a head of steam after Brett landed a penalty, shot themselves in the foot when Stanley picked up a second yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Brice Dulin, and thus was sent off for good.

Racing capitalised immediately, creating an overlap on the left for Argentine flyer Juan Imhoff to scamper over for a third try, converted by Carter again.

At 27-10 and with a numerical advantage, it seemed to be game over.

It should have been a case of Racing pushing for a bonus point fourth try in the final 20 minutes but instead, scrum-half Maxime Machenaud was sin-binned for killing the ball and suddenly Clermont had their tails up.

They forced a penalty try and then Fijian wing Alivereti Raka went over the whitewash following some flowing end-to-end running rugby.

Brett converted both and it had become a three-point game, with Racing looking tired and desperate.

In the end, they managed to hold on, but only just, playing out the final 90 seconds deep inside their own 22 with a succession of rucks.

"When you look at the half-time score the final score is satisfying. But when you see the second half, we should be coming away with something else," said Clermont coach Franck Azema.

Clermont took the losing bonus point but leaders La Rochelle could open up an 11 or even 12-point lead if they win at Pau later.

Read more on:    racing 92  |  top 14  |  dan carter  |  rugby
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