A devastating two-minute second-half spell helped Racing 92 come through a thrilling European Champions Cup quarter-final at Clermont Auvergne to book a last-four contest with Munster.
In a match pitting the last two losing finalists against each other, it was Racing’s quality in the crucial moments that paid dividends in a 28-17 victory at at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.
The lead had changed hands on several occasions before the introduction of New Zealand legend Dan Carter helped Racing seize the initiative, with man of the match Marc Andreu and Boris Palu touching down in quick succession past the hour mark.
It represents a fresh disappointment for Clermont, who have endured a disappointing Top 14 defence and lost three of the past five Champions Cup finals, but Racing – second in their domestic league – remain well in the hunt for titles this season.
Clermont’s early pressure forced Racing into several infringements from which Morgan Parra cashed in with three penalties to put the hosts into a 9-0 lead.
Racing were initially denied the opening try by the TMO due to obstruction, but crossed over soon after when Andreu’s break and neat work in the backs led to Leone Nakarawa powering through.
The tricky conversion was missed and Machenaud nailed two kicks at goal either side of the break to edge Racing back in front, but – after Nick Abendanon was denied by the TMO to boos from the home crowd – Parra’s trusty boot again put Clermont ahead.
But Racing turned to Carter and he inspired an immediate swing in momentum with a fine offload for Andreu to race over, a trip upstairs showing the pass was not forward.
Racing showed their strength again two minutes later as Carter, Teddy Thomas and Machenaud combined to play in Palu and leave Clermont trailing by 11.
Clermont thought they had a route back in the match when Remy Grosso went over, but a review spotted an accidental offside in the build-up and the score was wiped out much to the chagrin of the home faithful, who again voiced their displeasure at full-time.
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