Racing shock high-flying Toulon
Mon, 07 Jan 2013 09:00
Racing-Metro put the mixed start to their season firmly behind them with a shock 19-15 victory over star-studded Top 14 leaders Toulon on Sunday.
Toulon, averaging more than 42 points per game at home and bidding to take their winning streak at Stade Mayol to 19 matches, were outmuscled by a Racing side led magnificently by captain Dimitri Szarzewski and Fiji No.8 Sakiusa Matadigo.
After two appearances off the bench since a three-month lay-off following a herniated disc, Racing flyhalf Jonathan Wisniewski banged over a seventh minute penalty to open the scores.
But Wisniewski was at fault soon after as he missed a tackle on barging centre Mathieu Bastareaud, Jonny Wilkinson on target with the penalty awarded as Racing hurried to close ranks.
The former England flyhalf kicked a second penalty, but Wisniewski drew the score level with a smart drop-goal.
Wilkinson, whose current outstanding form realistically makes him a creditable shout for one of the three flyhalf spots in the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in the summer, then exited the field after a bloody clash of heads with Benjamin Fall.
As "Wilko" was receiving three stitches to the head wound, his Racing counterpart missed a penalty in his absence.
On his return, the Englishman was on hand to hit a third penalty after a stupid offside by Szarzewski to leave the home side 9-6 up at the break.
But the second half started perfectly for Racing, centre Fabrice Estabanez fending off Bastareaud and Matt Giteau to find Chavency on his inside for a try Wisniewski converted to open the game up.
Wilkinson fell short with a 52-metre penalty attempt but nailed his next effort to bring Toulon within one point of the Parisians.
Wisniewski stretched the visitors' lead with another penalty and traded a further penalty with Wilkinson as Racing held out with a formidable defence against an unusually toothless Toulon attack.
"They played great tonight, with a lot of pride," said Toulon captain and former Springbok loose forward Joe van Niekerk.
"We're very disappointed. But we'll go away and keep on working. We've lost once here (this season). We're not finished, no way."
Racing now sit eighth in the Top 14 table after leapfrogging Perpignan and Stade Francais, and coach Gonzalo Quesada, the former Former Argentinian flyhalf, was left delighted by his team's showing, saying it could relaunch their season.
"We're obviously very happy tonight," he said. "We have a lot of confidence in this team. All the players got stuck in. There's an enormous satisfaction.
"We had the strategy, the desire to play and get involved. We'll savour it because they really deserved it.
"We've passed through a little storm and the last two weekends have been proof that we've weathered that."
In the weekend's other matches, Clermont and Toulouse consolidated their second and third spots in the championship with victories over Montpellier and Mont-de-Marsan respectively.
In winning 36-18, Clermont extended their unbeaten home streak to 53 games in impressive form, but Toulouse were made to work hard against the Top 14's bottom club in their 16-12 victory.
Fullback Jerome Porical kicked seven penalties to hand Stade Francais a much-needed 21-13 victory over Bayonne, while David Mele was in identical kicking form to help Perpignan to a 26-16 win at home over struggling Bordeaux-Begles.
The shock of the weekend was Grenoble's 14-12 victory over fourth-placed Castres, the southeastern club's 24th consecutive home victory since May 2011.
The result pushed them into fifth place and virtually guaranteed that they remain in the Top 14 after promotion from the Pro D2 last year.
Top 14 results:
Toulon 15 Racing Metro 19
Clermont 36 Montpellier 18
Grenoble 14 Castres 12
Mont-de-Marsan 12 Toulouse 16
Perpignan 26 Bordeaux 16
Stade Francais 21 Bayonne 13
Biarritz 16 Agen 11
Standings (under headings played, won, drawn, lost, points for, against, bonus points, points)
Toulon 15 12 0 3 444 228 9 57
Clermont 15 12 0 3 381 248 5 53
Toulouse 15 11 0 4 413 275 6 50
Castres 15 9 1 5 337 264 6 44
Grenoble 15 10 0 5 321 305 2 42
Montpellier 15 9 0 6 336 306 5 41
Biarritz 15 8 0 7 289 290 4 36
Racing-Metro 15 7 0 8 272 269 6 34
Perpignan 15 7 0 8 346 361 5 33
Stade Francais 15 7 1 7 341 370 2 32
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