For the opening match of the new season, reigning champions Racing 92 were beaten (15-9) in a try-less game in Bordeaux on Saturday night. Despite their typically strong defence, after such a limited pre-season build-up the Racingmen lacked the precision to implement their game plan
It was almost to be expected after scarcely three weeks to prepare for the new season, but for their first away game of the new competition, the Ciel et Blanc got their season off to a shaky start in front of more than 22,000 spectators in Bordeaux on Saturday night. Despite fronting up in defence and keeping the lively Bordelais from scoring any tries, as witnessed by one try-saving covering tackle by Dan Carter in the 21st minute, the reigning French champions were frustrated by simple handling errors and a lack of fluidity in their play. Apart from a couple of promising breaks by Brice Dulin, the Ciel et Blanc struggled to get their game together, whereas the local side was able to stay in the match thanks to their supply of turnover ball, and the poor Racing discipline which allowed their Irish goal-kicker Ian Madigan to score all his side’s 15 points.
“It’s a big disappointment, because we came here to win,” said centre Henry Chavancy after the game. “But it was very difficult. We only started training again two and a half weeks ago, and we knew we would not be up to full speed. We just wanted to be uncompromising in terms of our commitment, our defence, and the basics. On defence, it was not too bad, as we didn’t concede any tries, but we lacked the discipline to be able to win this evening. And if we want to win games on the road, we will have to be far more disciplined than that.”
In this shoot-out between rival goal-kickers, in which the Ciel et Blanc were never more than a converted try away from taking the lead, Madigan kicked 5 from 6, while Dan Carter was successful with 3 from 4.
Madigan opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a goal from 41 metres. Before this, however, Bordeaux-Bègles had almost scored a try in only the 3rd minute of play, but some handy work by James Hart prevented the powerful prop Sébastien Taofifenua from grounding the ball. The Racingmen also had a couple of try-scoring opportunities in the first half, notably when Marc Andreu was within a hair’s breadth of dotting down following a nifty kick through by Brice Dulin, but the flying left winger was beaten by the bounce of the ball.
Five minutes later, on the right wing, the Ciel et Blanc again looked like scoring their opening try, but the overhead pass from Joe Rokocoko was intercepted by the opposition winger, and after a desperate 70 metre chase, it took a superb defensive effort by Dan Carter to hunt him down, and to regather and secure the ball from the tackle.
After 30 minutes of play, Madigan took Bordeaux out to a 6-0 lead, but just before the break Dan Carter finally opened the Racing account, kicking the first points of the season from 30 metres to the left of the posts.
Leading 6-3 at half-time, the Bordelais made it 9-3 with a third goal to Madigan three minutes after the restart. With both teams struggling to gain any momentum in this rather dour affair, it was not until the 60th minute that Racing scored again, with a simple penalty goal to Carter, from 15 metres out (9-6). Madigan goaled again six minutes later, to which Carter replied in the 70th once again closing the gap to 12-9. But despite the French champions throwing everything into it in the final minutes, Madigan would have the final word in the 73rd minute, slotting a close-range penalty after a simple mistake at the breakdown only metres from the Racing goal-line.
“It’s clear that we still have a long way to go if we want to achieve something this season,” concluded Chavancy. It is not just because we won something last year that it is going to be any easier this season. On the contrary, I even think it is going to be more difficult.”
Final score : UBB 15-9 Racing 92 (HT 6-3)
UBB : 5 penalty goals (Madigan)
Racing 92: 3 penalty goals (Carter)
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Saturday 26th August