Under-fire Racing snatch derby boost
TOP 14 SATURDAY WRAP: Shaken by revelations that three of their players tested positive for cortisone during their Top 14 Final victory last season, Racing92 snatched a 29-22 win over Stade Francais in the Parisian derby on Saturday.
A 79th-minute Camille Chat try sealed victory as the rivals were locked 22-22 going into the final minute, with Maxime Machenaud, who scored 19 of his side's points, converting in the last action of the match.
It got the defending champions back to winning ways after two away defeats at Castres and Brive had left Racing in the bottom half of the table.
French daily L'Equipe reported during the week that three Racing players, All Blacks legend Dan Carter, fellow former New Zealand international Joe Rokocoko and Argentinian teammate Juan Imhoff, tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug after Racing beat Toulon in the French Top 14 final in Barcelona in June.
Racing insisted that the treatments were authorised but the players looked visibly uncomfortable in front of their home crowd in Colombes, on the outskirts of Paris, for the derby between the last two French champions.
Imhoff and Rokocoko were both in the lineups but injured Carter watched from the sidelines.
"It hurts. You can't remain indifferent to these things because they are serious," said Racing backs coach Laurent Labit in response to the controversy over traces of corticosteroids being found in the urine of the three players concerned.
"When it affects people, their image, their honour and character, it becomes serious. But if we manage to get over this together we will thank everyone because I think that this is going to make us even stronger."
Imhoff scored his side's first try after 11 minutes, as Racing had to fight off wave after wave of attacks from their Parisian rivals. Stade Francais led 16-10 at half-time thanks to a Julien Arias try three minutes before the break and 11 points off the boot of Julien Dupuy.
But the hosts gained the ascendancy in the second half again through the boot of Machenaud, although Stade came back to level through a Jules Plisson penalty on 75, before Chat broke the deadlock.
La Rochelle went top after a gritty 17-17 draw with three-time European champions Toulon. In a match where the two sides scored one try apiece, veteran flyhalf Brock James kicked his fourth penalty with three minutes left to put La Rochelle in sight of a famous win.
But Pierre Bernard, who had replaced starting flyhalf Anthony Belleau early in the second half, kept his nerve to slot over a last-minute penalty to secure a share of the points.
Clermont can reclaim top spot on Sunday when they host Toulouse.
Montpellier are in third place after a 28-19 win over Castres as Jake White's side recovered from last week's loss to Toulon which ended a four-match winning run. New Zealand fullback Ben Botica kicked 20 of Montpellier's points, including converting his side's only try from flank Akapusi Quera.
Australian wings Adam Ashley-Cooper and Blair Connor scored Bordeaux' two tries in a narrow 27-25 victory over Brive for a fifth win of the season.
Top 14 results:
Racing 29-22 Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles 27-25 Brive
Grenoble 44-16 Bayonne
Montpellier 28-19 Castres
La Rochelle 17-17 Toulon
Lyon v Pau (10.30 GMT)
Clermont v Toulouse (14.15 GMT)
French Top 14 table:
(played, won, drawn, lost, points for, points against, bonus points, total points)
La Rochelle 8 4 2 2 226 179 4 24
Clermont 7 4 2 1 223 150 3 23
Montpellier 8 5 0 3 204 143 3 23
Toulon 8 4 1 3 196 171 4 22
Bordeaux-Bègles 8 5 0 3 192 186 2 22
Brive 8 4 1 3 183 205 1 19
Toulouse 7 4 0 3 145 135 2 18
Racing92 8 4 0 4 185 200 2 18
Castres 8 3 1 4 198 167 2 16
Stade Français 8 3 1 4 210 204 2 16
Pau 7 3 0 4 157 174 3 15
Lyon 7 2 2 3 138 174 1 13
Grenoble 8 2 0 6 182 263 3 11
Bayonne 8 1 2 5 133 221 0 8
Photo credit: Hélène Brasseur