Racing 92 56
SCOTLAND’S involvement in European rugby this season came to an end with this comprehensive defeat for Edinburgh in Paris. Richard Cockerill’s side battled bravely but couldn’t suppress the pace, power and accuracy of their opponents, which manifested itself in some of the most breath-taking passages of rugby you are likely to see in this or any other campaign.
“The scoreboard doesn’t lie, does it?” said Cockerill. “We started manfully, but if you’re not accurate and physically you drop off, then you get punished.
“They’re a great side, they’re well put together, and those games can easily get away from you and it did.
“They’ve got some real threat, some real physicality in that forward pack, and we just couldn’t cope with it. The reality is we just weren’t good enough to cope with the pace and the physicality and the consistency.
“They’ve got a strong bench. They brought that on and that made it harder. They lost Henry Chavancy early on but they brought on Simon Zebo and Kurtley Beale goes to 12 – it’s slightly different personnel than we have on offer.”
“We were not good enough to be anywhere near them today.”
Edinburgh started in sprightly fashion, winning back Blair Kinghorn‘s towering kick-off and testing Racing’s defence with several sharp phases before James Johnstone‘s well timed pass created an overlap on the left, but Duhan van Der Merwe butchered the opportunity with a poor pass to Damien Hoyland.
It looked like the visitors had snatched the lead a few seconds later when a slick move off a line-out sent Johnstone clear of Racing’s midfield, but the video showed that Jamie Ritchie had knocked on when transferring possession from set-piece to Dave Cherry on the peel.
Instead it was Racing who took the lead when WP Nel found himself on the wrong side of a tackle and Maxime Machenaud stepped up to kick the points. Kinghorn swiftly cancelled that out when Camille Chat was penalised for hands in a ruck right in front of the posts, but that was the last time they troubled the scoreboard operator.
Edinburgh will have been pretty pleased with their opening quarter, having matched their illustrious hosts in most areas, and actually creating more scoring opportunities, but moving into the second quarter Racing began to crank up their power game. Machenaud hit the post with a 45-yard penalty, then Chat muscled over for the opening try after a scrappy line-out tap-back from Grant Gilchrist.
Machenaud had no problem bisecting the posts when Cherry was penalised for not rolling away after a tackle, and the scrum-half then added the conversion to his own try – which had featured a sublime offload from Virimi Vakatawa and a Jordan Joseph swatting off van der Merwe with an old-fashioned palm to the face – to make it 20-3.
Having been starved of possession for 20 minutes, Edinburgh finished the half strongly with an exhilarating, free-wheeling passage of play. Unfortunately for the visitors, referee Luke Pearce got in the way of Henry Pyrgos‘ pass and Racing were able to regroup at the scrum. Edinburgh kept their foot on the gas but the hosts managed to hold Hamish Watson up over the line.
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While Racing quickly reclaimed the initiative at the start of the second half, Edinburgh initially hung in there with some gutsy defence, and had one or two lucid moments of their own when they managed to get their hands on the ball.
Stand-off Antoine Gibert, having taken over kicking duties from Machenaud, missed one penalty but was successful with his second effort just before the hour mark.
There was a lengthy hold-up as Racing’s replacement second-row Dominic Bird was treated and then taken from the pitch in a stretcher following a neck injury, but the hosts did not let that knock them off their stride, and Joseph burst over for try number three within a minute of the game’s resumption.
Guram Gogichashvili got try number four just a few minutes later with another swashbuckling passage of play, then Teddy Thomas piled on the misery when he scooped up a ball which had deflected loose off Mark Bennett‘s knee and disappeared up the left touchline for a 60-yard unchallenged walk-in.
Edinburgh’s goose was now well and truly cooked, and Thomas collected Louis Dupichot pass off the deck after first phase move to score again with five minutes to go, and Francois Trinh-Duc brought up the half century just before the final whistle.
Racing 92: K Beale; T Thomas, V Vakatawa (F Trinh-Duc 69), H Chavancy (S Zebo 27), L Dupichot; A Gibert, M Machenaud (T Iribaren 58); E Ben Arous (G Gogichashvili 55), C Chat (T Baubigny 53), C Gomes (A Oz 55), B Le Roux (D Bird 61, B Palu 62), Ryan, I Diallo, B Chouzenoux, J Joseph.
Edinburgh: D Hoyland; D Graham, J Johnstone (M Bennett. 62), G Taylor, D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn (J van der Walt 44), H Pyrgos (C Shiel 51); P Schoeman (M McCallum 73), D Cherry (M Willemse 51), W Nel (S Berghan 70), M Bradbury (M Kunavula 62), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie (L Crosbie 57), H Watson, V Mata.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Racing: Tries: Chat, Machenaud, Joseph, Gogichashvili, Thomas 2, Trinh-Duc; Con: Machenaud 2, Iribaren 4; Pen: Machenaud 2, Gibert.
Edinburgh: Pen: Kinghorn.
Scoring sequence (Racing 92 first): 3-0; 3-3; 8-3; 10-3 13-3; 18-3; 20-3 (h-t) 23-3; 28-3; 30-3; 35-3; 37-3; 42-3; 44-3; 49-3; 54-3; 56-3.