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PREVIEW: Racing out to end Toulon’s European reign

Monday 4th April 2016

12:00 am (GMT)

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For the first time in their three-year reign

For the first time in their three-year reign

For the first time in their three-year reign, holders RC Toulon go into a European Rugby Champions Cup not as favourites.

Racing 92 have been steadily building a team and a squad capable of dethroning the three-time European champions, not least with the arrival of World Player of the Year Dan Carter.

And now many believe this could be the year that the Parisiens finally take the biggest crown in European club rugby. Racing always knew if they were to become European champions, it was likely they were going to have to beat Toulon.

Victories over Northampton Saints, Glasgow Warriors and a record win over Scarlets meant Racing were already into the quarter-finals before losing their final pool match in Scotland.

They were rewarded with the tie they craved, home at the former Olympic venue Stade Colombes against their arch rivals from the south.

Yet it is easy to forget that this is only the second time Racing have reached this stage after they were knocked out of the quarter-final by Saracens – at home – last season.

The arrival of Carter, among others, suggests Racing 92 are in a stronger position and insist they have learned the lessons of that painful defeat.

However Carter and Racing were outshone by Frederic Michalak and Toulon in Paris less than two weeks ago.
Late tries by Wenceslas Lauret and Carter looked to have sealed a comeback win for Racing at Colombes only for Michalak to hold his nerve with a last-gasp penalty to snatch a 21-20 win.

Michalak is among several injury concerns this week for Toulon boss Bernard Laporte that includes Drew Mitchell and Bryan Habana while Leigh Halfpenny is not yet ready to return from his lengthy lay-off. However there are hopes Matt Giteau may return.

That would prove a major lift for the champions who also suffered a late defeat, 19-18 to title rivals Clermont Auvergne last weekend.

Toulon stuttered through the pool stage following a record defeat at the hands of Wasps in the opening game and required late scores against both Bath and Wasps at Stade Felix Mayol to progress from a closely fought group.

And defeat to Clermont, that saw Toulon slip to fourth in the Top 14, left owner Mourad Boudjellal pessimistic as to their chances of progressing to the Champions Cup semi-finals.

He said: “The match against Racing does not worry me because for me it is already lost. After the game [Clermont], I do not know how we could win. I got the idea of ??losing the European Cup. Colombes is perhaps not the most beautiful place to die but we will deal with it.”

If they win, Racing will travel to either Leicester Tigers or face city rivals Stade Francais in Le Mans. Toulon will host either of those sides at the Allianz Arena in Nice as a reward for winning an away quarter-final.


  • Racing 92 have won six of their last seven home games in the competition, however, the solitary defeat in that run came in their only knockout appearance in the competition against Saracens in last season's quarter-final. 
  • Three-time winners RC Toulon have won all of their last nine knockout matches in the Champions Cup; their only loss came in their first quarter-final against Perpignan in 2011. 
  • This will be Toulon's first away quarter-final since that defeat against Perpignan in Barcelona, with their last three appearances at this stage all coming at home. 
  • Toulon have won their last two away fixtures in the Champions Cup; a third consecutive win would equal their best streak away from home in the competition. 
  • The holders have played five matches against TOP 14 opposition in the Champions Cup with three wins. 
  • Racing conceded the fewest tries (6) of any team in the pool stage, and Toulon the second fewest (7). 
  • Racing were the only team not to concede a single try in the opening half of a game during the pool stage. 
  • At 87%, Racing were the most accurate goal kickers in the pool stage with only two other teams managing to kick more than 80% of their goals (Clermont and Ulster). 
  • Racing (9.7) and RC Toulon (8.5) won more turnovers per game than any other teams in the campaign to date.


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REPORT: Racing 92 end champions’ great run

Sunday 10th April 2016

12:00 am (GMT)

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Toulon's three season reign as the champions of Europe is over after they were beaten in their Champions Cup quarter-final by Racing 92. - 10/04/2016 17:19

Toulon's three season reign as the champions of Europe is over after they were beaten in their Champions Cup quarter-final by Racing 92. - 10/04/2016 17:19

Toulon’s three season reign as the champions of Europe is over after they were beaten in their Champions Cup quarter-final by Racing 92.

A penalty two minutes from time from the boot of French scrum half Maxime Machenaud kicked the Parisians over the line and into their first semi-final with a 19-16 triumph. Machenaud took over the goalkicking duties when Dan Carter picked up an injury and had missed with three earlier kicks.

But he kept his nerve when it mattered most and it means Carter and co will have to head to the City Ground, Nottingham to meet Leicester Tigers in the semi-final.

There was an explosive start at Stade Yves du Manoir as the home raced raced into a 10 point lead within the space of five minutes. The points started to flow from the kick-off as English referee Wayne Barnes penalised Charles Ollivon at the first ruck on the Toulon 22.

That gave Dan Carter an easy first shot at goal and he was back in action a few minutes later when Argentinean wing Juan Imhoff sniffed out an interception on half-way when Maxime Mermoz tried to find James O’Connor. He raced to the corner and Carter added the extras from wide out.

The champions were rattled, but the returning Matt Giteau steadied the ship from outside half and when Josua Tuisova picked out a miss match in midfield on Racing lock Francois van der Merwe, and broke into the home 22, Ollivon was on hand to take the off-load and make up for his earlier gaff with a try.

Jonathan Pelissie added the conversion to make it 17 points in 10 minutes and then kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time to level the scores at the break. By then Toulon had fully recovered their poise and Racing had lost their skipper, Dimitri Szarzewski.

It was Toulon who got the better start to the second half when Pelissie stepped up to kick another penalty four minutes after the re-start. But no sooner had they got their noses in front than they gave away two penalties in succession.

With Carter on one leg, carrying a knee medial ligament injury, Machenaud took over the goalkicking duties and having missed one at the end of the first half, he missed another early in the second. He then made amends when he got another shot to level the scores at 13-13 before he put Racing into a 16-13 lead on 53 minutes.

Pelissie responded on the hour, making it 16-16, before the dramatic finale. Machenaud missed a third kick on 73 minutes before he hit the mark to steal the glory two minutes from time.

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