- Jun 22, 2008
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RACING-METRO 92 19-13 STADE FRANCAIS PARIS
Racing hold out as Stade fumble shot at 6th
Racing Metro effectively sealed the final play-off position in their Parisian shoot-out with Stade Francais at their city rivals' expense in the weekend's late kick-off at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The 'visitors' burst into an early ten-point lead through the guile of Felipe Contepomi and the accuracy of Julien Dupuy's boot; but Pierre Berbizier's men steadily clawed their way back into contention by way of a stout defensive effort, nerveless kicking from full-back Jonathan Wisniewski and Stade's own determination to cough up every chance to score that came their way.
The hosts' pack certainly started with purpose and a will to put the opposition to the sword and an early driving scrum looked to establish a strong platform of forward superiority and unsettle Stade's tight five, winning an early penalty to relieve territorial pressure in the process.
But at the next set-piece SFP fough back and won a penalty of their own with great force shown from the tenacious front-row of Rodrigo Roncero, Dimitri Szarzewski and David Attoub to ruffle Racing feathers.
Moments later, Juan Martin Hernandez was pinged for being too slow to retreat and Dupuy had no problems from wide on the right in slotting his first chance at goal for a 3-0 lead.
The opening exchanges seemed to have swung Stade's way and they continued to pile the pressure on, with some astute tactical kicking from Dupuy and Contepomi pinning Racing back deep within their own 22 on several occasions.
The building momentum bore fruit in the 13th minute with a superb move being finished off by delighted Stade stalwart Julien Arias.
From a ruck on half-way the ball was moved swiftly left to influential pivot Contepomi, the veteran Puma displaying his unerring eye for the gap to scythe through the Racing line and offload outside to Szarzewski - the hooker drawing in the last defender and shipping the ball back inside to Arias who applied the simplest of finishes, Dupuy converting.
Racing sought an immediate response and were provided the perfect opportunity as an awful Stade line-out mid-way in their own half handed possession back to the Sky and Whites - with Jacques Cronje claiming the ball and rampaging forward with supporting runners either side, but Stade's scramble defence did just enough to deny to keep the hosts out, with Racing having to settle for three points from Wisniewski.
The game had descended into something of a scrap with Hernandez looking shaky and unassertive at fly-half whilst Stade were equally disjointed despite enjoying the majority of the ball.
Dupuy's second penalty effort from 51 metres was on target but dropped agonisingly short to keep the score at 10-3, but the lead was soon cut to four as Wisniewski curled in his second penalty of the afternoon.
The home side were clearly buoyed by the score and were looking to up the tempo of the match, putting width on their game through Juan Imhoff and Sireli Bobo, whose strong running was beginning to cause problems for Stade.
Pace and urgency had been injected by the Racing backs - with Imhoff in particular looking sharp - and with Stade looking to slow down their opponents' play, Contepomi was sent to the bin for ten minutes for cynically killing the ball.
Wisniewski pushed the subsequent penalty inches wide of the uprights, but it didn't take long for Racing to make their superior numbers count.
On the right wing, Imhoff showed brilliant strength and footwork to break free of two tackles and although his offload could not find Racing hands a series of Stade fumbles and mis-handles presented a bobbling ball to a thankful Wisniewski who popped the pill inside to Sebastien Descons, with the diminutive scrum-half left unopposed to scurry away under the sticks on the stroke of half-time.
The game continued in the same vein in the second period, as Racing kicked back off with a slender three point advantage.
SFP's determination was matched only by their inability to capitalise on the opportunities forged, and although Contepomi and captain Sergio Parisse put in monumental efforts to create meaningful chances, they simply did not possess the killer touch needed to breach the sturdy wall of Racing defenders.
Credit to the Citizens, they provided an impenetrable line of tacklers that frustrated Stade again and again in the second forty and although the visitors carried well through George Smith, (in a more familiar role as flanker after a brief sojourn in the centre) and Martin Rodriguez and Paul Williams in midfield, Racing's discipline did not waver.
Two early second-half misses from the tee saw vital points go begging for Stade and Dupuy's profligacy was visibly getting to the scrum-half.
Wisniewski was not so wayward with the chances provided him and a successful shot at goal from right infront stretched Racing's lead to 16-10 heading into the final quarter.
Dupuy was on target moments later to improve his kicking stats to 50% for the day and his fist-pump of encouragement showed everyone that the game was well and truly on.
But for all of their attacking endeavour and no matter how much they huffed and puffed there was no way through for Stade, as a plethora of stupid mistakes at just the wrong time blighted Michael Cheika's men; and Wisniewski's fourth penalty all but ended SFP's outside shot at the ***le.
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