Tuesday 20 March 2018

Munster's Champions Cup pool opponents Racing 92 grind out victory over Leicester

Racing 92's Portuguese prop Cedate Gomes Sa (C) is tackled by Leicester's British prop Greg Bateman
Racing 92's Portuguese prop Cedate Gomes Sa (C) is tackled by Leicester's British prop Greg Bateman
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Leicester Tigers started their European Champions Cup campaign with a 22-18 defeat to French giants Racing 92.

The result in Paris meant the Tigers secured a losing bonus point as first-half tries from Luke Hamilton and Jonny May meant they took something back to England.

Fly-half George Ford ended the game with eight points and his late penalty ensured Racing had to play until the final whistle. Leone Nakarawa, Bernard Le Roux and Teddy Thomas were the home side's scorers as Teddy Iribaren kicked two conversions and Maxime Machenaud added a penalty.

An entertaining first period ended with the Tigers behind by only four points.

Hamilton's early opener from 15 metres, which Ford converted, gave Matt O'Connor's side confidence, but it was not long before Racing turned on the style.

After the home side saw a score ruled out by the TMO, Nakarawa got Racing's first try and Iribaren levelled the game with the extra two points. Ford soon responded with a penalty, before Iribaren added the extras to Le Roux's try.

There was still time in an all-action opening 40 minutes for flying wing Thomas to cross for Racing's third score, Virimi Vakatawa to see yellow for the home side and May's seventh try in seven games for Leicester.

It was a fine finish from the England winger, Ford spreading the ball left for May to dive over by the corner flag. Ford couldn't convert.

Leone Nakarawa continued his all-round physical performance at the start of the second period. After half time, it was a tight affair.

Iribaren put a monster penalty short before Vakatawa returned from the bin and Machenaud came off the bench to score the first points after the break with a well-struck penalty.

The French scrum-half's effort came in the 58th minute, just after Racing had started to rotate their side by making use of their star-studded bench.

Leicester nonetheless remained undaunted. May went close to a second, scorching into space but just being tackled into touch when the try line beckoned.

Front-row forward replacements gave Leicester a new lease of life as they stayed in the game and their scrum was a match for their French opponents.

It meant the game went into the final 10 minutes with the result still in the balance. England pivot Ford then gave the home crowd a nervous finish, booting a 77th-minute penalty.

At that stage a remarkable Leicester win looked on the cards, but it was not meant to be in the end.

Racing took heed of their warning and pushed for a fourth try and although it did not arrive, both sides went home happy with something to take from the game.

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