Despite the difficult conditions, thanks to their composure and the power of the forwards, the Racingmen ensured a fine win (13-26) in Grenoble. An invaluable victory just a week before the big game against Stade Français at Jean-Bouin. (Credit Photo : Amandine Noel // Attitude Rugby)
Right from the kick off, in pouring rain and on a sodden pitch it was clear that this was not going to be a game for the aesthetically minded. But despite getting off to a bad start, rapidly trailing 10-3, Dimitri Szarzewski and his men buckled down and went back to the basics. Better organised, more powerful, by dominating up front and subjecting the home team to numerous sequences of inexorable forward play, they were able to keep Grenoble on the back foot.
The Ciel et Blanc will therefore leave Grenoble on Sunday morning with an invaluable victory, only the second away win of the season, but one which, in the race for qualification, brings them within one point of the “Group of Six”. “We came to seek revenge for our loss to Grenoble in the home game,” insisted skipper Dimitri Szarzewski at the end of the game. “We are not going to get carried away, but tonight I am very proud of my players.”
The home team had nevertheless got off to an excellent start, scoring an early try from a powerful 30 metre rolling maul, after only five minutes. Maxime Machenaud, picking up his goal kicking skills where he left them against Ireland at Stade de France, opened the score for the Franciliens eight minutes later (7-3), but an accidental obstruction from Jacques Cronje gave the local kicker James Hart an opportunity to add another three points.
Trailing 10-3, playing into the wind, after a scrappy opening fifteen minutes, the Ciel et Blanc went back to the basics, and through the power of their forwards began to take the ascendant up front.
At scrum time, several times they won the ball against the head. While in the lineouts, with at least four balls stolen from the opposition throw Juandre Kruger continued to show why he is the top lineout taker in the Top 14.
If the referee refused a try to Benjamin Lapeyre in the 20th minute for an obvious knock-on, three minutes later storming Welsh centre Jamie Roberts powered over for the first Racing try, from a simple switch pass from Juan Martin Hernandez. 10-10 after the conversion by Machenaud, then 10-16 at half-time after a dropped-goal by the Argentinean fly-half and a penalty by his French scrum-half.
Shortly after half-time, Hernandez slotted a second field-goal and at 10-19, with a nine-point lead, the break had been made. Another penalty goal to Hart enabled Grenoble to reduce the lead, but in the 67th minute Marc Andreu landed the killer blow scoring a try unopposed after a huge shove from the forwards in a scrum, and a little dab by Machenaud on the blind side. “Yes we had a difficult start to the game,” acknowledged Maxime at the end of the game. “But we stuck at it, and we never panicked. That’s a good sign because if we want to go right to the end of this championship, we’re going to have to have solid nerves!”
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