Champions Cup: Leicester Tigers 16-19 Racing 92
|Leicester (6) 16|
|Try: Veainu Con: Williams Pens: Burns, Williams 2|
|Racing 92 (13) 19|
|Try: Machenaud Con: Carter Pens: Carter 3, Goosen|
Leicester's bid to make it an all-English Champions Cup final came up short as they were beaten by Racing 92.
The Parisians took an early lead through Maxime Machenaud's try.
Leicester battled hard to stay in touch and two penalties apiece made the score 13-6 to Racing at half-time.
Dan Carter's third penalty and a long-range Johannes Goosen effort made it 19-9 and although Telusa Veainu crossed late on for Leicester, it is Racing who will play Saracens in the final in May.
That match, in the eastern French city of Lyon, will be a London versus Paris affair.
And with neither Racing nor Saracens having been champions of Europe before, there will be a new name on the trophy come 14 May.
Leicester their own worst enemies
Racing were the better side at the City Ground in Nottingham, with the glamorous Parisian club producing a performance brimful of ferocious defence.
But Leicester will rue their error-strewn display, with numerous handling errors halting their attempts to build any momentum.
They also saw talismanic centre Manu Tuilagi shut out of the game as an attacking threat by Racing, with the England powerhouse touching the ball just seven times in the first hour for the grand total of 13 metres. Even a late flurry from the 24-year-old was not enough to turn the match around.
Former All Black Chris Masoe embodied the Parisian tackling, smashing into Leicester runners time and again, and the final against Saracens - also renowned for the offensive nature of their defence - promises to be a bruising encounter.
Carter the unstoppable?
Racing had former New Zealand fly-half Carter at 10 and it typified the French side's display that his most memorable moments came in defence, with one tackle - on a hitch-kicking Vereniki Goneva down the wing - of the very highest class.
Bar a missed drop-goal, his kicking was impeccable and the all-time leading points scorer in Test history was his usual calm, unhurried self in a sometimes frenetic match.
He converted their early try and knocked over a couple of penalties before the break to keep Leicester at arm's length and a further effort after the break - plus a mighty long-range kick from Goosen - saw the French side home.
While opposite number Freddie Burns - who was forced off by an ankle injury late in the first half - was livelier with ball in hand, Carter was content to pull the strings in attack and put his body on the line in defence as Racing battered Leicester into submission.
|Champions Cup final, 14 May, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon|
|Saracens (Eng) v Racing 92 (Fra)|
Machenaud the masterful
The outstanding player on the day was Racing scrum-half Machenaud, who was put in the driving seat by his powerful pack and proceeded to take full advantage.
He showed good strength and opportunism to snipe over from close range after just three minutes following a powerful burst from former All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko deep into the Leicester 22.
The France international kept on driving his side forward to the extent that they were unlucky not to win by more.
He combined sweetly down the blind-side with Masoe to spark what they thought was a second try. Goosen cut a superb line off the drifting Rokocoko and was put through the gap by a perfectly-timed pass, but it was rightly chalked off for a forward pass from Masoe to Machenaud.
And the Parisians were unlucky when referee Nigel Owens pulled back Juan Imhoff as he raced for the line after a non-existent knock-on.
Their excellent defence was finally breached late on when Veainu finished off Leicester's only truly threatening attack of the match, but Machenaud and Co were deserved winners.
What they said
Leicester boss Rickard Cockerill: "We don't do sulking, we've just got to crack on: we've lost and that's the game. We can't change it, so we'll look forward to trying to secure the top four and a league semi-final.
"I was disappointed in some of the consistency around the refereeing at the scrum. Their loosehead was penalised five times and warned that if he did it again he would go to the bin.
"Our system was broken down in defence right at the start and we leaked seven points in a three-point ball game. You take the dodgy penalty from the scrum and that's 10 points."
Racing 92 fly-half Dan Carter: "It's an amazing achievement. This competition was a big part of the reason I wanted to come and play in France. We knew it would come down to the last minute because Leicester are a quality side, very fit.
"Winning the final would be a dream come true. It's been an amazing four and a half months, but that would top things off. Saracens are a quality side, the form side of the tournament, but I'm looking forward to it."
Former England captain Will Carling: "So the man @DanCarter gets a chance at another final! Thought his legs had gone last year! Shows what I know - one of the game's greats."
Former England, Leicester and Harlequins centre Will Greenwood: "Always a hammer blow if you finish a semi-final knowing you were way below par. Huge shame that @LeicesterTigers didn't perform today."
Leicester: Tait; Veainu, Betham, Tuilagi, Goneva; Burns, B Youngs; Ayerza, H Thacker, Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, McCaffrey, Fonua.
Replacements: Thompstone for Goneva (75), O Williams for Burns (36), Mulipola for Ayerza (63), Bateman for H Thacker (73), Croft for Fitzgerald (47), Slater for Fonua (52).
Not Used: Balmain, Harrison.
Racing 92: Dulin; Rokocoko, Goosen, Dumoulin, Imhoff; Carter, Machenaud; Ben Arous, Lacombe, Tameifuna, Charteris, Van Der Merwe, Lauret, Le Roux, Masoe.
Replacements: Dupichot for Dumoulin (55), Phillips for Machenaud (73), Vartanov for Ben Arous (73), Chat for Lacombe (56), Ducalcon for Tameifuna (50), Carizza for Van Der Merwe (64), Tales (for Goosen 62-65).
Not Used: Claassen.