Lambie makes winning start in Europe
CHAMPIONS REPORT: Racing 92's solid performance made sure they record a 22-18 win over a relentless Leicester Tigers in the European Champions Cup Pool 4 fixture at the Stade Yves Du Manoir in Paris.
A try from Luke Hamilton in the opening minutes gave Tigers a perfect start, but Racing showed their ruthlessness as well as their physical strength in adding three first-half tries in response with Leone Nakarawa involved in all three as they built a 19-10 lead.
Tigers, though, fought back with a seventh try of the season for Jonny May shortly before half-time to cut the deficit to just four points.
Tigers kicked off, facing into the autumnal sunshine, and the match was just three minutes old when Hamilton provided the opening score.
A tap penalty from scrumhalf Youngs initiated an attack which eventually resulted in Hamilton, who timed his run perfectly, bursting through a gap and score. Ford added the extras for an early seven-point lead.
South Africa international Patrick Lambie was added to the Racing backline just a few minutes later as Juan Imhoff limped off.
It was Lambie's first appearabnce in a competative match for more than six months - follwing his second lengthy lay-off due to concussion.
* Article continues below video!
Racing threatened for the first time on 11 minutes with a break by Lambie but Tigers latched on to loose ball and survived the scare when Ford cleared.
Tigers were then penalised at a breakdown but Racing scrumhalf Teddy Iribaren kicked wide from 45 metres.
The home side, however, were starting to build a head of steam and claimed three tries in the space of just 11 minutes.
First, they were denied by the TMO when they were held up over the line with Census Johnston in possession. Although the verdict was no try, play remained five metres out from the Tigers try line and Racing made the most of the put-in at the scrum and quick recycling for Nakarawa to reach out and plant the ball down one-handed on the right.
The conversion from Iribaren levelled the score to 7-all with 22 minutes gone.
Tigers had an immediate response when Ford added a penalty from just outside the Racing 22 after some big carries among the forwards as Tigers led 10-7.
Racing used their physical strength to score again and take the lead for the first time with a try from Bernard Le Roux after Nakarawa had again managed to offload in contact. The referee had to check the footage again before awarding the score, 14-10 after 30 minutes of play.
Another score quickly followed as Nakarawa pop-pass out to the right found scrumhalf Iribaren, who handed it to wing Teddy Thomas for the try.
Soon, the hosts were down to 14 men when centre Virimi Vakatawa was sin-binned for a high tackle on Malouf. With one man short, Tigers pounced as May bagged their second try, to trail 15-19.
Racing had the chance to fire the first shots in the second half when Tigers were penalised for a high tackle on Remi Tales on halfway, but Iribaren was well short of the posts with the kick
Lambie's presence on the field made a huge impact, the flyhalf's kick found touchline and got his side in the Tigers' half for that than crucial points. His tactics proved fruitful because soon the whistle went again with Tigers offside after the lineout. This time, replacement Maxime Machenaud's 10-metre penalty extended the lead to 22-15.
Tigers made changes in the front row as the game entered the final 15 minutes with George McGuigan’s introduction followed by opportunities for Greg Bateman and Pat Cilliers with much of the period spent in the middle third of the pitch.
Dan Tuohy replaced Kitchener with eight minutes remaining and his first involvement saw the Tigers scrum win a penalty on the edge of their own 22, with Ford taking play up to halfway with the kick to the left.
Tigers kept Racing in their own half and Ford's penalty made sure the Tigers cut Racing’s lead to just four points, enough to secure a losing bonus-point for the visitors.
For Racing 92:
Tries: Nakarawa, Szarzewski, Thomas
Cons: Iribaren 2
Tries: Hamilton, May
Pens: Ford 2
Yellow card: Vakatawa (Racing,34)
Racing 92: 15 Juan Imhoff, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Yannick Nyanga, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Edwin Maka, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Patrick Lambie, 23 Anthony Tuitavke
Leicester: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Luke Hamilton, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Ben White, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mathew Tait
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)