Sport Rugby

Wednesday 13 December 2017

O'Shea looks forward to Clermont clash after Sexton fails to fire Racing

Harlequins 17 Racing Metro 3

Johnny Sexton failed to fire Racing Metro
Johnny Sexton failed to fire Racing Metro

Gavin Mairs at The Stoop

Not even the selection of a quartet from the Lions' triumphant Test side could save Racing Metro from a second successive mauling at the hands of Harlequins.

The defeat was another chapter in the winter of woe for Johnny Sexton. The former Leinster No 10 could do little to get Racing going and while he kicked their solitary three points, he was substituted midway through the second half.

While the result effectively confirmed the early Heineken Cup exit of the expensively assembled French side, Harlequins' hopes of reaching the quarter-finals are firmly alive. The back-to-back victories over the French Top 14 side have enabled Harlequins to remain in touch with Pool 4 leaders Clermont Auvergne, who must visit the Stoop in round five in January.

Clermont collected a bonus point in their 31-13 win over the Scarlets on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the pool to four points.

But after recovering from losing their first two games, the swagger appears to be back in the Quins step. "We lost our first two games but are right back in it with a winner-takes-all game when Clermont come here," said Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea.

"We know what we have to do. We've been written off but this team likes challenges. We have fought our way back into the Heineken Cup and we are happy.

"We've got nine points out of a possible 10 against a team and squad that have many players. And I did feel we were the better team, with emphasis on team, and that's what made the big difference."

The most remarkable aspect of the contest -- largely spoiled by the inclement conditions -- was that Racing's galacticos failed to raise their game from their previous week's defeat in Nantes.

The French side had been on the receiving end of some harsh words from the club president Jacky Lorenzetti during the week -- including the decision to switch a Top 14 match against Toulon from the Stade de France back to their home ground.

But even with Mike Phillips, Sexton, Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts in their side for the first time, once again they failed to fire a shot. Three Nick Evans penalties and a fine try from Charlie Walker laid the foundations for the home side's victory in the first half and they remained in complete control during the second period.

If nothing else, the last week has proven that it is not always possible to buy success at this level. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Harlequins -- M Brown; C Walker, M Hopper, T Molenaar, S Smith; N Evans (B Botica 41), D Care (K Dickson 78); J Marler (M Lambert 73), D Ward, W Collier (P Doran-Jones 29), C Matthews (Kennedy 55), G Robson (Trayfoot 78), L Wallace, C Robshaw, N Easter.

Racing Metro 92 -- JM Hernandez; A Plante, H Chavancy, J Roberts, V Vakatawa (B Fall 75); J Sexton (J Wisniewski 64), M Phillips (M Machenaud 63); D Khinchagishili (B Arous 53), V Lacombe, S Tonga'uiha, F Metz, K Ghezal (J Kruger 63), D Lydiate (L Ducalcon 16), A Battut, C Gerondeau.

Ref -- A Rolland (Ireland).

Irish Independent

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