After winning five games in a row, the Ciel et Blanc came back down to earth with a bang, losing heavily to Montpellier (44-10). They will now play the playoff against Stade Toulousain in Toulouse next Friday.
There are days when nothing goes right, and this afternoon at the Yves du Manoir stadium in Montpellier, destiny refused to smile on the Ciel et Blanc jersey. After a winning sequence against Castres, Grenoble, le Stade Français, Biarritz and Clermont, the Francilian team were brought back to reality by a fiery and opportunist performance by Montpellier.
The best defence in the TOP 14 came under heavy pressure, with Montpellier controlling the game from beginning to end, and running in five tries to one. “We just didn’t turn up,” lamented coach Laurent Labit at the end of the game.
And yet, in the early minutes, it looked as if Racing was going to score the first try of the match. But in a scenario which was to repeat itself several times, instead of dotting down behind the goal-line, the Ciel et Blanc lost the ball, Montpellier attacked from deep, and seconds later the Franciliens were standing behind their own posts.
With two tries to Springbok Wynand Olivier, after twenty minutes the Ciel et Blanc were already 14 points adrift (17-3). And by the time the siren went for half-time, Montpellier had increased their lead to 23-3 after two penalty goals by the excellent François Trinh-Duc, who finished the day with a personal tally of 22 points.
If Racing’s hopes were still alive at the break, they quickly evaporated when Montpellier ran in their third try only 62 seconds after the restart. The Ciel et Blanc attacked, seemed to about to score, but they lost the ball, Trinh Duc toed ahead, and René Ranger went over under the posts. Scarcely eight minutes later, it was almost exactly the same thing: Racing on attack in the opposition 22, interception by Trinh-Duc, and the international fly-half ran over 80 metres to score.
The only ray of light for the Ciel et Blanc came in the 53rd minute, with a try to Jonny Sexton, after a mid-field break by Adrien Planté, who then fed Jamie Roberts before the Welshman put his fly-half over beside the posts.
But it was too little too late to have a hope of coming away with the losing bonus point which would have enabled the Racingmen to host the playoff at home in Colombes. “We really wanted to play a final match at home, to reward all our supporters, our sponsors, and the players who are going to leave us,” regretted Labit. “It is a huge disappointment for us. But we will bounce back quickly and make sure we prepare properly for the playoff against Stade Toulousain.”
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