Tuesday 17 July 2018

Ruthless Racing tame Tigers

Leicester 16 Racing 92 19

Juan Imhoff of Racing 92 breaks with the ball Photo: Getty
Juan Imhoff of Racing 92 breaks with the ball Photo: Getty
Telusa Veainu of Leicester Tigers scores their first try Photo: Reuters
Manuel Carizza of Racing 92 beats Ed Slater to the ball Photo: Getty

Mick Cleary

Leicester strived and strained, touching down in the last minute and converting from the touchline but there were to be no defining get-out-of-jail heroics this time.

When the City Ground last hosted a semi-final, 12 years ago, Leicester had seized the moment to go on to claim back-to-back European titles.

This time, in truth, the great escape would have been without true merit.

Racing had the edge in fluency and potency in what was at times a fractured match. It was enough for the Parisians to go through to their first ever final against Saracens at the Grand Stade de Lyon on May 14.

Racing fly-half Dan Carter could yet finish the season with a World Cup and European double.

Carter insisted that Saracens were now favourites to win the final despite his side's victory. "They've probably performed best in this tournament and deserve their spot in the final. They've been leading the way, top of the points table at the end of the pool stages and have continued their form in the quarter-final and semi-final, so it's going to be a tough game for us."

Leicester have not been at this rarefied level for seven years. And it showed. They needed to be slick and self-assured. Instead there were too many periods when they were error-strewn. Their handling was slipshod, several balls spilling to the ground under pressure.

There was to be no fault found in Leicester's effort, no complaint made as to the manner in which they flung themselves at the task. They never yielded, never ran up the white flag. Centre Peter Betham was still charging downfield at the end, creating havoc down one flank from where Telusa Veainu was able to raise a flicker of outrageous hope with that 80th-minute try. Owen Williams landed the conversion with just one quick swing of the boot. It was gutsy. But it was the rage against the dying of the light.

It has to be said, they came up against a Racing side who were hell-bent on creating their own history. This was a victory forged on their unforgiving defence.

Time and again, as Leicester surged forward, they were met by a blue-and-white wall. Chris Masoe kept slamming them backwards, so too centre Johannes Goosen, to the detriment of his own well-being at one point when reeling from one contact he was ordered from the field by Nigel Owens for a concussion test.

The South African was only denied a try later by the slenderest of margins by a television match official ruling.

As ever, Carter was the fulcrum. He missed a couple of pots at goal, but he brought his unflappable self to bear on every other aspect of the game.

He was well served throughout by the man inside him, France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud.

Leicester: Tait; Veainu, Betham, Tuilagi, Goneva (Thompstone, 75); Burns (Williams, 36), B Youngs; Ayerza (Mulipola, 64), Thacker (Bateman, 73), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald (Croft, 47), McCaffrey, Fonua (Slater, 52).
Racing 92: Dulin; Rokocoko, Goosen, Dumoulin (Dupichot, 55), Imhoff; Carter, Machenaud (capt; Phillips, 75); Ben Arous (Vartanov, 73), Lacombe (Chat, 56), Tameifuna (Ducalcon, 50), Charteris, Van Der Merwe (Carizza, 64), Lauret, Le Roux, Masoe.
Ref - N Owens (Wales)

Irish Independent

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