Racing 92’s star centre Virimi Vakatawa went from hero to zero briefly after costing his side a much-needed try in his side’s 29-23 loss at home to Toulon in the latest round of the Top 14.
The blunder occurred as Vakatawa casually jogged into the in-goal, failing to put the ball down quickly as Toulon winger Gabin Villiere snuck up behind him. The ball was dislodged in the tackle and bounced over the dead ball line.
The would-be try came after brilliant lead-up work from Racing’s winger Teddy Thomas, who drew three Toulon players before throwing a basketball-style offload back inside over the top to Vakatawa.
Brilliant offload from Teddy Thomas and then Vakatawa ????
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) January 17, 2021
Down 17-3 after 20-minutes, Racing desperately needed the score but Vakatawa quickly made amends combining with the likes of Russell and Thomas to threaten Toulon’s defence. After one break, Vakatawa linked up with Thomas with a no-look reverse flick pass.
Racing’s first try came after a quick tap from a scrum before Russell’s pinpoint cross-kick found Thomas out wide. The break continued with Vakatawa down into Toulon’s 22 before Russell linked up with Wenceslas Lauret on the opposite side for the try on the next phase.
Almost immediately after, Russell put Vakatawa into a gap on first phase directly outside former All Black Ma’a Nonu. The French international centre broke away downfield before finding Teddy Thomas in support to score under the posts.
Just like that, Racing hit the front 20-17 on the back of some scintillating play from their stars Vakatawa, Thomas and Russell.
Toulon drew level 20-20 on the stroke of halftime before edging ahead in the second half with three penalties. Vakatawa’s missed try could have made the difference in the end, as Racing 92 lost by six points.
The heavyweight fixture was a who’s who of global rugby, with international stars Kurtley Beale, Eben Etzebeth, Baptiste Serin, Ma’a Nonu, Finn Russell, Charles Ollivon, Virimi Vakatawa, Sergio Parrise, Isaiah Toeava and Teddy Thomas on the pitch.
Mourad Boudjellal is delivering on his promise to re-build the club this season, the away win allowed Toulon to move into 4th position on the ladder, just one behind 3rd-placed Racing 92.
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