European Champions Cup: Northampton 8-32 Racing Metro

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Racing's Wales centre Jamie Roberts takes on Stephen Myler (left) and Luther Burrell
Wales centre Jamie Roberts had a big game in the Racing midfield
Northampton (3) 8
Try: North Pen: Myler
Racing Metro (11) 32
Tries: Imhoff 2, Lapeyre, Roberts Cons: Machenaud 3 Pens: Machenaud 2

Northampton limped into the last eight of the European Champions Cup despite a humiliating defeat at home to Pool Five winners Racing Metro.

Maxime Machenaud kicked Racing into a 6-0 lead and although Stephen Myler got the hosts on the board, Juan Imhoff's try made it 11-3 at half-time.

The Argentina winger doubled his tally straight after the restart and Benjamin Lapeyre also claimed a converted score.

George North crossed for Saints but Jamie Roberts added Racing's fourth.

The bonus-point win means Racing will go into the last eight as top seeds, and leaves English league leaders Northampton facing an away tie and wondering just went wrong on Saturday.

Normally so strong, especially in front of their passionate home fans, they were outplayed in every department from the first whistle to the last.

European Champions Cup Pool Five
Racing Met651016869224

They enjoyed the odd good moment in the scrum, with England loose-head Alex Corbisiero probably their best player during his time on the pitch.

But a bad day was made worse by England flanker Tom Wood limping off injured and hooker Dylan Hartley picking up a yellow card - hardly the sort of example the captain should have been setting with his discipline having once again been called into question this season.

Despite Hartley's sin-binning - for tackling a man while on the ground at a ruck - and the visitors' overall dominance, Racing only led 6-3 with the break looming, but they then hit Saints with a three-punch combination either side of half-time.

With the last play of the first half Imhoff and South Africa lock Juandre Kruger - a former Northampton player - combined down the touchline and a crisp one-two enabled the right winger to stride over untouched.

When the Pumas flyer added his second two minutes into the second period Northampton were reeling and Lapeyre ensured the game was over with well over half an hour to play as he stripped Luther Burrell - later to be made to look silly by some sizzling Imhoff footwork - of the ball and raced through a yawning gap to score.

Northampton managed to cross the whitewash as Wales winger North - who subsequently produced an amazing, pin-balling 50m run to give the home fans something to shout about - was sent over down the blind-side from a rare spell of Saints pressure.

But big-spending Racing added a fourth try as Wales centre Roberts, a hugely physical presence in midfield throughout the match, smashed over from close range to confirm that the Parisian aristocrats are serious contenders this season.

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton:

"Once you go behind and concede a couple of quick tries you're really up against it.

"It happens. You can't dwell too much on it. I just think Racing played well; they'd done their homework on us, clearly.

"The positives are that we have still qualified, but it is a disappointment today. It was a massive game for the club and we were second best."

Benjamin Lapeyre races over to score for Racing Metro
Benjamin Lapeyre's converted score meant the match was over as a contest well before the hour mark
George North scores for Northampton
George North's try was arguably more than Northampton deserved after a feeble performance
Northampton's England flanker Tom Wood was forced off with injury
Northampton's England flanker Tom Wood was forced off with injury

Northampton: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson; Corbisiero, Hartley, Ma'afu, S Dickinson, C Day, Wood, Clark, Manoa.

Replacements: Elliott for Wilson (69), Harrison for Burrell (64), Fotuali'i for L Dickson (55), A Waller for Corbisiero (55), Denman for Ma'afu (48), Dowson for Wood (44), Haywood for Wood (16-24), Stephenson (for Burrell).

Sin-bin: Hartley (14).

Racing Metro 92: Lapeyre; Imhoff, Chavancy, Roberts, Thomas; Dambielle, Machenaud; Ben Arous, Szarzewski, Ducalcon, Charteris, Van Der Merwe, Lauret, Le Roux, Claassen.

Replacements: Goosen for Dambielle (71), Phillips for Machenaud (59), Brugnaut for Ben Arous (64), Lacombe for Szarzewski (63), Gerondeau for Claassen (74), Mujati (for Ducalcon 65), Kruger (for Van der Merwe 36), Audrin (for Imhoff 53).

Sin-bin: Lapeyre (56).

Att: 13,591

Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales).

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