Last-gasp Chris Masoe try sees Racing edge Highlanders in Natixis Cup
French side fielded young players who showed their scoring talent in Hong Kong, while Dan Carter played just a half at Siu Sai Wan Stadium
Racing 92 edged Highlanders 45-38 in the Natixis Cup on Saturday night and leave Hong Kong ready to push for a Super 14 title.
Racing got home thanks to a last gasp try to Chris Masoe and starting captain Francois van der Merwe is confident the intense hit-out will hold the French side in good stead ahead of a week off.
“We are going into the break with a good mindset and ready for our next game against Grenoble,” van der Merwe said.
“It’s good to keep the momentum going that we already had in the championship back home. In that way this game served us really well.”
According to Racing 92 assistant coach Ronan O’Gara, the week in Hong Kong went perfectly and he was impressed with what he saw on the field.
“From our point of view, we didn’t get any injuries, so we are very happy with the week’s work,” O’Gara said.
“We played to our strengths at times, our driving maul was exceptional. Our handling between forwards and backs was exceptional. It was a hugely beneficial week.”
With a number of senior players being managed, including star Dan Carter who played only a half, Racing’s younger players got a chance to show their wares, with Xavier Chauveau particularly impressive with two tries.
The Highlanders also came away from the match with plenty of positives despite the narrow loss, showing patches of slick passing and signs of good things to come.
“We’ve had an awesome week and, get a bit of the rust out of our game, I think we’ll get off to a good start to our season,” Highlanders captain Shane Christie said.
Racing’s physicality had been the cause for much discussion in the build-up and they used their driving maul to full affect, with Christie hopeful the hit-out will serve as a good learning curve for his side.
“We had been practising to try and stop that [the driving maul],” Christie said.
“It’s actually a good thing to have that happen to us because now we can prepare and learn from it and get ready for our season. The perfect first hit-out for us.”
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph praised the work of recruit Liam Squire and stand-in full-back Matt Faddes, who scored two tries, taking plenty away from the match.
“I thought there was some really good stuff from both teams, but a lot of work-ons and I think that is exactly what we needed,” Joseph said.
The game itself started slowly, with the Highlanders fumbling early and Racing 92 taking time to get their legs moving.
With the Highlanders leading 21-12, the second half started with a flurry of tries, with both sides flicking the ball around and attacking relentlessly.
The teams traded blows throughout the second stanza, delivering the try fest that was much discussed during the week.
Scores were locked at 38-38 for much of the late stages of the match, before Masoe crossed to secure victory for Racing.