Russell stars as Racing crush La Rochelle
WRAP: Finn Russell handed out another taster of what Scotland are missing as he helped guide Racing 92 to a 49-0 thrashing of La Rochelle in Top 14 action on Saturday.
Russell was at the heart of a Racing performance that saw the home side – missing France internationals Camille Chat, Teddy Thomas, Bernard Le Roux and Virimi Vakatawa – shoot out to a 25-0 half-time lead, going on to consolidate their dominance in a seven-try thumping La Rochelle director of rugby Jono Gibbes dubbed a “disgrace”.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has decided against selecting Russell so far in the Six Nations after falling-out with the flyhalf.
In his absence, Scotland suffered losses to England and Ireland before rebounding to beat Italy last week to lift, slightly, the pressure on Townsend for Russell’s non-selection.
“It’s exactly we’d forecast,” Racing prop Cedate Gomes Sa said of the result.
“We really wanted to play this match to the max before the international break. And for the first time we were able to do so from the first to the 80th minute.”
La Rochelle skipper Victor Vito was left scrambling for positives from the thrashing.
“It’s the first time we’ve shipped points like that,” lamented the ex-All Black, a two-time World Cup winner.
“Either we crack or we come back,” he said. “In the end I think it’ll be a good thing. We have qualities but we didn’t show them today.”
Two intercept tries
Racing opened the scoring through hooker Teddy Baubigny, driven over from an attacking line-out maul after Jules Plisson’s deliberate knock-on.
There then followed two intercept tries. The first came from Russell, from 60 metres out, the second from Dorian Laborde thanks to Francois Trinh-Duc, who picked off Vito’s pass and offloaded before collapsing with a hamstring injury.
Racing extended their half-time lead within four minutes of the restart for the second period, centre Olivier Klemenczak driving his way over in the corner after a long looping pass from Fijian playmaker Ben Volavola.
“49-0, there’s no excuse, it’s my responsibility! Today we took part in the match, but we didn’t play.”
Fabien Sanconnie crossed for Racing’s fifth try after a smart Laborde offload before Maxime Machenaud added salt to La Rochelle’s wounds, pouncing on a ball that had popped loose from a close-range scrum.
Racing lost Irish fullback Simon Zebo to injury after what looked like a blatant shoulder-barge of a tackle from the former Munster player.
Replacement Racing prop Hassane Kolingar rounded off a nightmare match for the Ronan O’Gara-coached La Rochelle side, doing well to wrestle his way to the line, Machenaud going wide with the conversion to at least save the visitors a humiliating 50-plus defeat.
“It’s tough for our supporters and the club… it’s a disgrace,” said Gibbes, a former All Black flanker/lock who previously coached at Leinster, Clermont and Ulster.
Sunday sees Top 14 leaders Bordeaux-Begles host Castres, while ex-Italy captain Sergio Parisse turns out for Toulon at home against his former long-time club Stade Francais.
Racing92 49 La Rochelle 0
Bayonne 20 Toulouse 10
Agen 15 Clermont 32
Pau 19 Montpellier 15
Brive v Lyon
Bordeaux-Begles v Castres
Toulon v Stade Francais