This European Champions Cup game started with a moment of tribute to Yann Marquez, the Racing 92 kit man who recently passed away, but probably many thoughts in the crowd were on the horrible events in Paris that had caused this game to be rescheduled from last year.
With the ceremonies done, rugby resumed and on a crisp winter day in Paris Glasgow’s woes in the concentration department continued immediately, with Pat MacArthur fluffing a lineout then Adam Ashe passing to no-one, which ended with a penalty and Carter kicking for the corner. Racing’s fullback Johannes Goosen knocked it on and Glasgow escaped pride intact, but the power the Racing pack were bringing to bear was ominous.
It was Glasgow who had the best early chance as a pin-point pass from Finn Russell found Stuart Hogg in plenty of space with two supporting runners and only a flailing hand from Maxime Machenaud flapped the ball loose. Glasgow also had the first chance of points, and although Russell skewed his long range effort wide of the posts after twelve minutes, he slotted another after fourteen.
Both sides were looking to throw it about and Sean Lamont and Mark Bennett featured heavily in the early stages. With Russell in at 12 for injured Pete Horne, the 10-12 channel was always a target but Duncan Weir defended charges from Chris Masoe manfully and most of his kicking from hand was confident and accurate, aside from a blocked grubber. While the big ball carriers were heavily in action for Racing, turnovers were there to be had.
There were a few “14 point” passes going in as Glasgow tried to put Taqele Naiyaravoro into one-on-ones but which could easily have reslted in interceptions. Still, it was pleasing to see Glasgow making a good fist of things after poor recent form.
It was 24 mins before Dan Carter had his first slot at goal, and he showed none of the problems Hogg and Russell were having to equalise to make it 3-3 when it could easily have been 3-9. When Racing did get motoring through a Goosen breakout and some slack defending between Naiyaravoro and Mark Bennett, they offloaded like a teamful of Nakarawas, making ground with scary ease before a small batch of forwards rumbled Ben Tameifuna over for the game’s first try.
Glasgow came straight back with strong carries from Nakarawa, Naiyaravoro, Gray and the impressive Zander Fagerson but Leone knocked on with 5 metres to go. That was possibly the high water mark of the match for Glasgow, as a great Racing kick chase put Weir under pressure and Carter kicked the penalty for holding on, even as refereee John Lacey left them with plenty of time to play the ball.
The ten point gap was perhaps unfair given how much Glasgow had contributed, but if we’ve learned nothing else it is that at the top level against top players, lapses in concentration mean points.
Half-time: Racing 92 13-3 Glasgow Warriors
Both sides had room for improvement but Racing were the ones threatening the greater strides whereas there was a sense that even if Glasgow did step up several levels, Racing might still have too much for them. So it was that the men in light blue came charging through any doors Glasgow left open right out of the blocks, before powering over from a driving lineout, Racing captain and part time shampoo model Dimitri Szarzewski coming up with the ball and the score.
The home side were well in control at 20-3 up and it sadly became a procession of scintillating breaks and deft offloading by players right throughout the Racing team as they chased a 4-try bonus. They followed it up with a rolling maul whenever in range of the try line – all the scores came from the front 5 – and when it was working so easily who could blame them?
Lather, rinse, repeat.
As a Glasgow watcher there was precious little to write home about, although Zander Fagerson continued to impress in set-piece and the loose, while Russell’s passing was slick and Jonny Gray tireless as always. Ali Price too, did his best Mike Blair, tackling whatever he could and often when no-one else could.
It wasn’t that Glasgow were awful or blown away, they just weren’t good enough. It was one of those games when a superior team is content to let the opposition punch themselves out, confident in their abilities to score again if needed; in short they took their foot off the gas a little and Glasgow put together some possession.
The visitors duly took a great chance with a cunning 5 metre lineout fake that left Nakarawa a gap to sprint through and dot down, giving Glasgow not so much a lifeline as a bit of confidence they could put something together. But it was still 27-10, and it remained so throughout a strong spell from Glasgow where Russell was looking to bring Bennett, Hogg and Nakarawa into the game more and it paid dividends, to a point – usually the point where someone forced an offload to no-one to be eagerly snaffled by the opposition.
Goosen had a late chance to snatch the bonus point try until perfectly timed interference by replacement Lee Jones kept the ball just out of his control, so it was that Racing left it till the 79th minute to mount a serious attempt at the bonus through – you guessed it – a lineout drive. What was almost a 15 man shove could not be resisted, and for Racing, it was mission complete – only just.
For Glasgow – another frustrating European adventure all but over.
SRBlog Man of the Match: slim pickings from a Glasgow point of view but refreshingly it came down to two younger players, Ali Price and Zander Fagerson. Price probably edges it as while it was a joy to see a Glasgow scrum not crumple and Fagerson on the charge (suggesting he could be backing up WP Nel sooner rather than later) Price made a couple of try saving tackles that would have had Racing out of sight a lot earlier.
Racing 92: Johannes Goosen, Juan Imhoff, Henry Chavancy, Alexandre Dumoulin, Marc Andreu, Dan Carter, Maxime Machenaud; Eddy Ben Arous, Dimitri Szarzewski (captain), Ben Tameifuna, Luke Charteris, Manuel Carizza, Yannick Nyanga, Wenceslas Lauret, Chris Masoe.
Replacements: Camille Chat, Julien Brugnaut, Luc Ducalcon, Bernard Le Roux, Antonie Claassen, Brice Dulin, Mike Phillips.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Mark Bennett, Finn Russell, Sean Lamont, Duncan Weir, Ali Price, Gordon Reid, Pat MacArthur, Zander Fagerson, Leone Nakarawa, Jonny Gray (captain), Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro, Adam Ashe.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Alex Allan, Sila Puafisi, Greg Peterson, Hugh Blake, Lee Jones, Sam Johnson, Glenn Bryce.