Racing 92 14-23 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors handed Racing 92 their first home defeat in 11 months, as a defensive masterclass spearheaded an historic 23-14 victory at the Stade Yves du Manoir.
Tries either side of half-time from Alex Dunbar and Ali Price, coupled with the boot of Finn Russell, saw Gregor Townsend’s men claim a valuable four points to put themselves in a strong position in the pursuit of a place in the quarter-finals.
With two teams renowned for their attacking prowess taking to the field on a crisp December afternoon, the early stages were predictably frenetic. An early break from Dan Carter almost resulted in a second-minute try for the hosts through Joe Rokocoko, were it not for a last-ditch tackle from Price on his own five-metre line.
The Parisians were in the mood early on, however, and it came as no surprise that the breakthrough came from Les Ciel et Blancs. A 60 metre surge from Rokocoko took Racing into the Warriors 22, before a cut-out pass from Maxime Machenaud allowed Juan Imhoff to stroll over in the corner. Carter converted, and the hosts led 7-0 after nine minutes.
Glasgow’s riposte was immediate. After good work from Simone Favaro and Tim Swinson at the breakdown had drawn a penalty from referee JP Doyle, Finn Russell was unerring from the tee to give the visitors their first points of the afternoon and narrow the gap to four points.
The deficit was narrowed to just a single point just moments later; whilst good Racing scramble defence prevented a delightful set-piece move involving Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg ending in a try, they were powerless to prevent Russell punishing an indiscretion at the breakdown with his second successful penalty attempt just moments later.
For all Racing’s attacking intent, it was the visitors that were beginning to control the flow of the match. From the defensive impact of Favaro and Sam Johnson to the swashbuckling menace of Hogg and Seymour, there was to be no quarter given from the visitors.
Then came the sucker punch from the Warriors, as Gregor Townsend’s men crossed for their opening try on the half-hour mark. Flirting with the edge of the Racing 22, a sublime short ball from Russell sent Dunbar clean through the defensive line, with the centre sprinting over untouched by a Parisian hand. The conversion was added by Russell to the delight of the Warrior Nation, and Glasgow held a 13-7 lead – an advantage they maintained until the half-time whistle sounded.
If the travelling supporters could have picked a start to the second half for their side, then chances are the start made by the Warriors would have been high on their list. Having regathered the kick-off, the Glasgow pack went to work. Jonny Gray, Zander Fagerson and Fraser Brown were amongst those to take the ball ever closer to the Racing try-line, before Russell’s dart saw him held up just short. Instead it was half-back partner Price that applied the finishing touch by touching the ball against the base of the post, Russell dusting himself down to add the extras and take the score to 20-7 in favour of the Warriors.
It wasn’t just from the tee that Russell was finding joy with the boot, with the Glasgow fly-half – along with Price and Hogg – providing a clinic in tactical kicking at the Stade Yves du Manoir. With the Warriors defence turning in hit after hit with aplomb, the hosts were being made to work for any semblance of yardage under the Parisian evening sky.
There was no let-up from the Warriors defence in the face of wave after wave of Racing attack, with Favaro and Dunbar leading the charge. With 15 minutes to play, the visitors struck a crucial blow – a kick in behind the defence from Russell allowed Ryan Wilson to force Imhoff into conceding a penalty, and saw Russell handed a third shot at goal of the match. The Glasgow fly-half was ice cool as he maintained his impeccable record, handing his team a 23-7 lead and putting them in sight of the all-important win.
Racing were in no mood to roll over, however, and dragged themselves back into contention with nine minutes remaining. Taking an inside ball from Brice Dulin, Carter showed just enough pace and strength to cross the whitewash under pressure from Alex Allan and Lee Jones before converting his own try to cut the deficit to nine points.
Yet with one final defensive effort - characterised by a textbook covering tackle from Alex Allan on Wenceslas Lauret – it would be the Warriors celebrating at full-time, with referee Doyle’s final whistle sparking scenes of delight amongst the travelling fans. A 23-14 victory secured, and a famous afternoon in Paris for Glasgow rugby.