Life’s no beach for Hong Kong-bound Dan Carter despite leading Racing 92 to top of table
Dan Carter admitted having to shelve thoughts of a warm New Zealand beach as he battled driving rain and wind to lead Racing 92 to the top of the Top 14 table in a hard-fought 23-18 victory over Bordeaux-Bègles late Saturday.
The former All Blacks fly-half, who will play in Hong Kong on February 6 when Racing 92 tackle reigning Super Rugby champions Highlanders in the Natixis Cup, was instrumental in the win in his first French league start at Stade Yves-du-Manoir in the Parisian surburb of Colombes.
While the inclement weather may have been more winter in Dunedin than springtime in Paris, a smart show-and-give from the Kiwi playmaker set up the decisive try in the 53rd minute of a real slog of a match.
Carter burst inside Felix Le Bourhis’ right shoulder, a one-handed offload allowing Brice Dulin to break clear, with the fullback’s pass to Alexandre Dumoulin gifting the centre a clear run-in.
A conversion and three quick penalties from World Rugby player of the year Carter sealed the win after hooker Dimitri Szarzewski had scored Racing’s opening try.
Six penalties from Simon Hickey (four) and Lionel Beauxis (two) were all the combative Bordeaux side could muster.
“I'm not used to playing through Christmas and New Year, I'm usually on the beach in New Zealand! Bonne annee!” Carter told Canal Plus.
“Last week against Clermont was a big game for us [a 26-10 victory], but it meant nothing if we didn’t get the win this week. We’re very happy,” he added.
Clermont moved into second spot after running out 33-16 victors over Agen, a much-needed confidence boost after two consecutive home losses.
Fast-rising flanker Camille Gerondeau scored a brace of tries to go along with a penalty try and 18 points from the boot of France fly-half Camille Lopez, while his South African counterpart with Agen, Burton Francis, scored all of his side’s points.
“That was very complicated for us in the first half playing against the wind,” said Clermont coach Franck Azema.
“We knew it was important to keep hold of the ball, play the percentages and try to make them commit fouls.
“We haven’t done anything exceptional in winning at Agen, others have done it before us, but it was important for us to do it to stay on course. We would have liked the bonus point but we unfortunately conceded a try.”In other games Saturday, Montpellier, featuring 11 foreigners in the starting 15 and a further five on the eight-strong bench, were edged 19-18 by Brive.
Fijian number eight Sisa Koyamaibole, a veteran of three Rugby World Cups and a veritable journeyman of European clubs, was in outstanding form for Brive, the home side leapfrogging Montpellier into sixth place in a congested mid-table.
Grenoble put Oyonnax to the sword, running out bonus-point 42-17 winners, while La Rochelle broke Castres’ four-match winning streak with a battling 25-21 victory.