Racing 92 is definitely lacking something. This je ne sais quoi that allows you to overthrow mountains, not to miss the last pass, to make the right choice at the decisive moment. This extra soul that is so essential in rugby when it comes to the final stages, when the season counters are reset. For this first semi-final of the Top 14, this Friday evening at the end of a day when the storm threatened in the sky of the Pierre-Mauroy stadium, the lightning was on the side of La Rochelle. And the sky has fallen on the head of Racing. For a club used to evolving in the comfort of its room at La Défense Arena, the rain that fell on the hour mark on Lille dampened the title hopes.
This promising close match between the 2nd and 3rd of the regular season began as a boxing match.
An observation round where the opponents surrender first all the blows, good or bad, the faults like the breakthroughs, the forward like the inspirations at the foot.
As often, the fantastic Scottish opener Finn Russell alternates genius blows and reckless risk-taking.
Winger Arthur Retière, on the Rochelle side, made his speed and his hooks speak, and put Racing on the ropes.
The Ciel et Blancs resist and Antonie Claassen leaves temporarily, his face bleeding.
Machenaud and West answer each other at the foot (6-6, 21st).
Read alsoTop 14: Brice Dulin, the back of La Rochelle, remembers the good memories of Racing
The first knockout will come within half an hour of play. La Rochelle takes the upper hand. In closed melee, in the rucks and in the zone of truth, where the choices of the Yellow and Black are more judicious. As a symbol, it is from the former Racingman Brice Dulin that the inspiration comes: a marvel of kick over in the arms of Arthur Retière, quicker than Teddy Thomas, for the first test of La Rochelle (16-6, 30th).
Powerless despite Laurent Travers' multiple changes at the start of the second half, Racing could not find the key.
And even found himself without a hooker after the successive injuries of Baubigny and Le Guen.
Completely disorganized, with no one to sound the revolt despite a few attempts by Gaël Fickou and Kurtley Beale, authors of poor choices near the lines, Racing once again said goodbye to the title.
A new failure, after the elimination in the quarter-finals of the European Cup in Bordeaux, from which the Sky and White will have difficulty recovering.
La Rochelle - Racing 92: 19-6 (16-6)
La Rochelle: 1 try (Retière 29th).
1 transformation (West 30th).
4 penalties (West 12th, 21st, 26th, 52nd).
Racing 92: 2 penalties (Machenaud 7th, 14th).