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Racing, Clermont open in style

TOP 14    

Russell shines for Racing as Clermont start new Top 14 season in style

Grenoble and Perpignan both suffered defeats on their return to the Top 14 as Clermont Auvergne and Racing 92 flexed their muscles in the opening round of the 2018-19 season.

Back in the top flight after a four-year absence, 2009 champions Perpignan were beaten 46-15 at home by Stade Francais.

Sekou Macalou crossed twice as the visitors eased into a 29-3 half-time lead, albeit they suffered a blow before the break when Sergio Parisse was controversially shown a red card for leading with the elbow.

Fly-half Paddy Jackson scored a try on debut as Perpignan cut the gap, but Stade ended any hopes of a comeback by scoring the final 17 points of the contest.

There was also disappointment for the other promoted side too, La Rochelle spoiling the big occasion for Grenoble with a 28-21 triumph on the road thanks to a late score from Jean-Charles Orioli.

Thomas Ramos kicked a late drop goal to secure Lyon a 16-16 draw at home to Toulouse, while Romain Lonca and Nans Ducuing grabbed two tries apiece, and Baptiste Serin kicked 21 points, as Bordeaux Begles ran out 41-19 winners against Pau.

After a disappointing campaign last time out that saw them finish ninth, Clermont began the new season in impressive fashion, running in 10 tries to thump Agen 67-23 at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.

The hosts trailed 16-15 at the halfway stage but cut loose after the interval, touching down four times in the closing 15 minutes as they piled on the points.

In Saturday’s late game, Racing produced a strong second-half performance to record an impressive 25-6 victory away at Toulon.

The home team led 6-3 at the break at Stade Mayol only for Finn Russell to inspire Racing’s fightback, the Scottish fly-half touching down for two tries as he finished with a personal haul of 20 points.

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Russell shines for Racing as Clermont start new Top 14 season in style