Racing 92 48 - 26 Cardiff Rugby
HT 20-12
Sat 20 January 15:15 Paris La Defense Arena Ref: Christophe Ridley Investec Champions Cup

Racing 92 48-26 Cardiff

Sat 20 Jan 2024 17:06 Racing 92 48-26 Cardiff

Cardiff bowed out of Europe as Racing 92 displayed their ruthless edge at Le Defense Arena in Paris with a 48-26 victory.

The Blue and Blacks were right in the contest at half-time, trailing by just eight points following a spirited performance, in which Rhys Carre and Tomos Williams crossed for tries.

But the Parisian giants delivered a devastating second-half performance, with three tries in less than ten minutes to ease clear of Matt Sherratt’s men.

To their immense credit, Cardiff refused to throw in the towel and fought back into the game with two more tries through Williams and De Beer to salvage a try-scoring bonus-point.

But Racing’s lead was always insurmountable and Cardiff’s Investec Champions Cup campaign came to an end.

Cardiff made seven changes for the Round Four clash and travelled to Paris with the chance to qualify for the knockout stages of both the Investec Champions Cup and the European Challenge Cup.

Six of the 11 players named in Wales’ Six Nations squad were in the starting XV, including uncapped back-row duo Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin.

Following the pyrotechnics and light show at a hugely impressive La Defense Arena, there was a frantic start with Cardiff making some uncharacteristic early mistakes.

Racing took advantage with Gael Fickou dangerous and Siya Kolisi waltzing through the Blue and Blacks. The two-time Springbok World Cup winning captain came agonisingly close to scoring but play was brought back for obstruction.

Cardiff survived the early onslaught with Racing coming away with just a Le Garrec penalty and they soon claimed the opening score.

After kicking a penalty to touch, they got Rhys Carre’s hands on the ball early and he rampaged over Antoine Gibert and into Inia Tabuavou off first phase ball. Cardiff continued through the phases from close range and it was only right that it was the loosened prop that then drove over.

De Beer converted to give his side an early 3-7 lead. It appeared as though Racing has hit back on the 15 minute mark when they kicked a fortuitous penalty to the corner.

They rumbled over with Camille Chat sneaking down the touchline but the effort was ruled out by the TMO for blocking as the maul was set.

The hosts did however, hit back on 19 minutes when Gibert sent a perfectly weighted kick to the corner, which Kitione Kamikamica collected unopposed. Tristan Tedder converted to make it 10-7 after 20 minutes.

Their physical onslaught was relentless and they claimed a second try five minutes later when Kolisi bundled over. It looked as though Aled Summerhill and Alex Mann had done enough to hold up the flanker but the try was given despite the TMO finding no angles of the ball grounded.

Tabuavou crossed for the hosts’ third try on the half-hour mark with the Parisian’s speed of ball and slick hands too much for the Cardiff defence.

But with the score 20-7 and half-time looming, Cardiff struck for a fine try of their own. Carre had been steamrolling into the opposition all half but on this occasion he was used largely as a decoy as he took the ball round the corner and slipped possession to Ben Thomas.

The centre sliced through the Racing defence and passed inside to Tomos Williams, who finished superbly despite the best efforts of Tedder.

De Beer missed the conversion and there was a late storm to weather but Cardiff entered the break very much in the encounter, with the scoreline 20-12.

Racing delivered a devastating blow to Cardiff just four minutes into the second half when Tedder did remarkably well to keep a clearance in play. He squeezed outside Summerhill and then sliced inside for a fine individual try, which he then converted.

The full-back was on target once more just three minutes later after Racing tapped quickly from inside their own half to release Christian Wade.

Fickou then made it three tries in less than 10 minutes to all but extinguish any hope of a Cardiff comeback.

Despite the nightmarish 10 minutes, Cardiff refused to stay down and continued to fight for everything. Their effort was typified by Tomos Williams, who competed relentlessly and was rewarded with a second try, shortly after the hour mark.

In his last act of the game, he charged down a Racing kick in a period of loose play, and won the race. De Beer converted with the help of the uprights to bring the score to 41-19.

Cardiff continued to throw everything at the French outfit and following long periods of possession, in which they were frequently knockout back by the giant hosts, they broke through.

It was a beautiful double pump pass from De Beer to release Owen Lane. He made the half break and then offloaded off the floor for the fly-half to scythe under the sticks for his first try in Cardiff colours.

He converted the score to bring Cardiff back into the encounter but Racing had other ideas. A Kolisi offload off the floor created the opening and while Jacob Beetham raced across to make a fine try-saving tackle, Aled Summerhill was sin-binned for a perceived infringement at the breakdown.

Racing kicked to the corner and rumbled over with Tarrit crashing over from the driving maul to score their seventh try of the game and secure the 48-26 win.