Less than a hundred days from the Rugby World Cup in France, the rarefied air of cleaver matches is back in Paris. A Top 14 barrage between Stade Français and Racing 92 certainly does not have the same brilliance as the inaugural clash between France and New Zealand in early September. But a derby between two teams separated by a few kilometers and a small point in the regular season standings, for a place in the semi-finals, had everything to give, Saturday June 3, a particular flavor to the meeting.
Despite the sun and the perfect conditions, Racing 92 triumphed on the lawn of its neighbors at the end of a rough match and with too few offensive flights (33-20).
The few latecomers in the stands of the Jean-Bouin stadium will have missed the first turn of the match. After five minutes of play, the rough and often undisciplined Argentinian third line of the French Stadium, Marcos Kremer, received a red card of implacable logic, for having cleared the Ile-de-France opener Finn Russell directly to the head.
After the meeting, the Parisian coach, Gonzalo Quesada, expressed his “Disappointment not knowing what would have happened if we had played more time at fifteen against fifteen”. Far from overwhelming his compatriot for his expulsion, the Argentinian technician explained, moved, at the microphone of the Canal+ broadcaster that he “wanted us to win for Marcos Kremer, he didn’t deserve that”.
The former Stade Français, Fickou, offers victory to Racing
The sanction imposed by the attack of Racing, now in numerical superiority, was immediate. After a nice movement by young Frenchman Donovan Taofifenua across the field, interrupted a few centimeters from in-goal, Ile-de-France winger Juan Imhoff seized the ball in the ruck to flatten it behind the line. Ten minutes later, the “racingmen” scored a second try, and then seemed definitively launched towards the semi-finals.
But the rarefied air of knockout matches has amazing virtues. And Stade Français has managed to keep its head above water, relying as throughout the season on the power of its forwards. After a try from their third line Sekou Macalou, the Parisians set up camp five meters from the Racing line. Half a dozen scrums and two Ile-de-France yellow cards later, Jean-Bouin was exultant when he saw the referee award a penalty try. 17 everywhere: at one less, the men in pink had managed their first period perfectly.
Finding some air in the scrum after the break, Laurent Travers’ men built a small lead by taking advantage of the faults of Stade Français. Either paralyzed by the challenge, or inspired by Roland-Garros, not far from there, the two teams have multiplied the kicks from one camp to the other. And Jean-Bouin almost capsized with happiness when he saw Morgan Parra slip away to try and win, five minutes from the siren, but the veteran scrum-half was caught. The Parisians were punished at the very end of the match, following a scramble in attack five meters from their own line, by an opportunistic try by former club member Gaël Fickou, sealing the victory for Racing.
The Ciel et Blancs did not succeed with the Parisians. Already winner of the play-off against its neighbors in 2021, Racing came to win for the sixth time in a row on the lawn of Jean-Bouin.
Parra, Quesada… a page turns in Paris
For Stade Français, this defeat marks the end of a cycle. Two members of his staff, including coach Gonzalo Quesada, architect of the last Parisian title in 2015, will leave the club. The Argentinian will be replaced after the World Cup by Karim Ghezal and Laurent Labit, from the XV of France. The coach of the Parisian forwards, Laurent Sempéré, who has done wonders this season, will do the opposite.
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For French rugby, too, a page turns: this defeat recorded the last professional match of scrum half Morgan Parra, 71 games with the XV of France. And the entry on the lawn, around the hour mark, of this figure of the tricolor oval was very loudly greeted by the stadium.
After the meeting, Gonzalo Quesada showed his satisfaction after a difficult season. “At the beginning of October, not many would have bet that I would be there in front of you, after a play-off match”, summarized the Argentine technician, who had learned in October that he would not be kept at the end of the season.
Winner and qualified for the semi-finals, Racing 92 will head due south-west. He will face, in just six days, Stade Toulouse on the lawn of the Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian, in the Spanish Basque country. An armada of French internationals who finished first in the regular season. “If I had the recipe to beat Toulouse, I wouldn’t give it away, smiled after the match, the coach and future president of Racing, Laurent Travers. It’s a much higher step, I hope we’ll step over it without too much hindrance. » After defeating their neighbours, his men are tackling a major challenge, hoping to return to Ile-de-France to play in the final.