Saints sent home pointless by Racing

Date published: October 18 2014

Racing-v-Northampton-scrum_3218423

Marc Andreu’s late try denied Northampton a bonus point in a 20-11 win that was marred by inconsistent officiating.

Marc Andreu’s late try denied Northampton a bonus point in a 20-11 win that was marred by inconsistent officiating.

Alexandre Dumoulin’s try gave Racing an early lead, before Phil Dowson’s effort in the last five minutes gave Northampton the chance of earning a draw.

But after Stephen Myler missed the conversion that would have levelled matters, Andreu punished a Saints side chasing the win with a late poacher’s try.

However it was referee George Clancy who took centre stage, with both sides left baffled by his decisions in the scrum, as well as his failure to take more serious action over a potential gouge from Salesi Ma’afu.

Racing paid the more serious price, losing two props to sin-binnings, but Northampton looked nothing like the team that has dominated the Premiership so far this season and despite the cruel nature of the ending, probably didn’t deserve anything out of the game.

It was an unfamiliar setting for Saints, who have been paired with Castres in the pool stages in each of the last four seasons.

And all too often defeats in France have proven costly in their chase for a quarter-final place, something they have not done since reaching the final in 2011.

Racing, meanwhile, have never really found their feet in Europe, with just seven wins from 24 games in their four Heineken Cup campaigns before this game.

They do however have a tendency to start strongly, and they made an absolute flier here with a try just four minutes in from in-form centre Dumoulin.

It was a stodgy opening period, and Racing should have been further ahead after controlling much of the game, but struggled to turn that dominance into points.

That wasn’t the way it looked when Racing opened the scoring.

After the returning Jonny Sexton drilled the ball back into Saints territory, Racing got a crucial lineout steal, and from there Jamie Roberts made ground to set up centre partner Dumoulin to go over.

It was a welcome intervention from Roberts, under-fire for his recent performances since returning from injury.

Sexton made no mistake with the conversion but then there was a period back and forth with both teams trying to establish dominance in the scrum, to the detriment of the game as a spectacle.

After half an hour Saints finally got on the board thanks to three points from Myler, and they would have been very happy with a four-point deficit at the break.

However Sexton added three more points for Racing after another scrum infringement, to make it 10-3 at half-time.

The game continued in a similar fashion and Saints cut the lead back to four with a second Myler penalty after Racing were caught offside.

The home side responded by driving into Saints territory at which point things kicked off for the first time.

Juandre Kruger was left screaming on the floor as a maul was stopped with Ma’afu’s hands suspiciously close to his eyes on the floor.

After a lengthy delay, Clancy decided there was nothing conclusive and gave just a penalty, oddly given for an elbow to the face, and Sexton missed from a kickable position in a surreal passage of play.

If that call angered Racing, it was nothing compared to the sin-binning of Julien Brugnaut five minutes later when the prop paid the penalty for Clancy’s frustration at the scrummaging difficulties.

It was a very tough call on the Parisians, who had dominated the set-piece only to lose a man when Saints were judged to be on top.

Northampton should have made them pay immediately when George Pisi intercepted Maxime Machenaud’s pass. The Samoan looked for all the world as though he would score Northampton’s first try, but he lost the ball under no pressure with a pulled muscle seemingly the problem to give Racing a huge let-off.

And with that glaring miss, Saints failed to make the most of their man advantage, scoring no points while Brugnaut was off the field.

With 15 minutes remaining, there were just four points in it, but when Ben Foden was caught offside from a kick, Sexton had the chance to give his team a little more breathing space. After his earlier miss, he made no mistake this time and stretched the lead back to seven.

Saints got back on the front foot though and a succession of rolling mauls had Racing desperately defending on their line.

That led to an interminable period of consultation with the TMO. Eventually Eddy Ben Arous was sin-binned for coming in for the side, but the Parisians at least earned the penalty when Tom Wood took out Sexton in a ruck around the neck, although somehow the Northampton captain avoided a card.

This time Northampton made their extra man count with Ken Pisi drifting perfectly to send Dowson over in the corner. But Myler could not convert and Racing held on to a slender two-point lead.

That forced Saints to keep chasing what would have been a massive win in the context of the group, but they ended up paying the price for trying to play out of their own 22.

A low kick from Ben Foden bounced kindly into Andreu’s hands leaving the diminutive winger the simplest of finishes.

And Goosen rubbed salt into the wounds with the conversion that left Saints pointless from the encounter ahead of the visit of the Ospreys next week.

Racing meanwhile have a great chance to establish themselves as knock-out contenders when they travel to Italy next week to take on Treviso.

The scorers:

For Racing M

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