Tom Vickers’ Racing Metro versus Northampton Saints view and player ratings

COSTLY ERROR - Saints full-back Ben Foden

COSTLY ERROR - Saints full-back Ben Foden

0
Have your say

There was a palpable sense of déjà vu as Saints headed off the rapidly-invaded playing surface at Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday evening.

Once again, Jim Mallinder’s men had come to France in October, and once again they had left with a feeling of regret.

For Racing Metro 2014, see Castres 2012 and 2013.

Saints had the chances to prevail, but just as in the two years previous, their opportunity slipped away, this time without even the consolation of a losing bonus point.

The incessant drum beat of the home fans will have weighed heavy on their souls as they headed down the tunnel following the concession of a late try.

That Marc Andreu score, allied with Johannes Goosen’s nerveless conversion saw Racing rob their Pool 5 rivals of a point they had worked hard for.

As on those occasions against Castres, Saints had not played their best rugby, struggling to get into their stride against a sturdy, talent saturated Top 14 side.

But when they did get into gear, the chances came. And went.

George Pisi’s charge to the line was halted the ping of his hamstring, with the ball and player hitting the ground prematurely.

And there were further chances to score before Phil Dowson made the pressure pay by popping up on the right wing.

But Ben Foden’s attempted clearance kick with just seconds to go was charged down and Andreu pounced to spark scenes of delirium among the fervent home faithful.

Foden took it to heart afterwards, annoyed that his decision had cost Saints a point.

But they will know it was not just that moment that deprived them of what they felt they had earned.

The fixture computer is a fickle beast and Saints can once again count themselves unlucky to have been forced to travel to France first.

It is a common theme that sides from across the Channel make strong starts but fade if things are not going their way.

Unfortunately for Saints, they always seem to catch Top 14 teams when they are out for an early scalp.

And having not yet faced any of last season’s top four in the Aviva Premiership, they perhaps went into Europe slightly undercooked.

Racing had put a Clermont-shaped notch in their belt early in last season’s Heineken Cup and failed to win another game.

This time, in the new Champions Cup competition, they have slayed Saints in the formative stages of the pool.

And you get the feeling it may help them do what they failed to do last year and kick on.

For Saints, going away to France and getting within touching distance of a win with just a few minutes to go is not to be sniffed at.

But they have come so far during the past few years and their raison d’etre has been winning big games on the road.

Now they will have to win a mammoth encounter at home next weekend.

Cue déjà vu once more, as Ospreys head to Northampton.

It is a similar scenario to last year, when Saints needed to bounce back from defeat in France and found the Welsh side lying in wait at Franklin’s Gardens.

On that occasion, Mallinder’s men got the job done, keeping their Heineken Cup flame burning bright.

Now they will hope history repeats itself in a positive manner.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Had looked sharp despite Saints being under the cosh, but his attempted clearance with seconds left on the clock ultimately cost the side a losing bonus point... 5

KEN PISI

Did his best to make inroads and played his part in Phil Dowson’s try, but overall it was a tough night for the wingers as Racing stifled Saints... 6

GEORGE PISI

Like Foden, was one of the livelier players on the pitch, but will have his night remembered for an error, dropping the ball as his hamstring went on the way to the line... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Made some strong carries, desperately trying to use his bulk to blast his way through the Racing defence... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Posed a few problems when he got the ball, but was not able to get enough of it due to Racing’s slowing tactics... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Didn’t do too much wrong, but missed the chance to level the scores with a tough conversion attempt with five minutes to go... 6

KAHN FOTUALI’I

Was frantically trying to inject pace into the game as Racing’s suffocating breakdown tactics stopped Saints playing at the speed they desired... 6

ALEX WALLER

A tough night for the forwards, who were left bemused by some of the scrum calls. Not much this man could do about that... 6

DYLAN HARTLEY

The captain stuck at it, attempting to drive his team on, but Racing stood tall and it was to be an irksome evening... 6

SALESI MA’AFU

A retaliation at a ruck cost Saints a penalty and it was a largely frustrating night for the front row forward... 6

COURTNEY LAWES

Made some good carries, one of which earned a shot at goal, and couldn’t be faulted for his commitment against a tough home side... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

A night when the calm assurance this man provides was needed, but it took Saints time to steady the ship and replacements were needed to add some impetus... 6

CALUM CLARK

Saints’ best player, the flanker put in an all-action display that earned praise from management and team-mates alike... 8

TOM WOOD

Can never be faulted for his commitment and he did everything he could to get Saints back in the game, but saw the referee fail to find in his favour... 6

SAMU MANOA

The big man relished the battle of big hits with an imposing French side, but his physicality was matched... 6

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

JAMIE ELLIOTT (for G Pisi 54)

Not an easy game to come into as a winger as they were largely starved of the ball, but did little wrong for the final 25 minutes.. 6

LEE DICKSON (for Fotuali’i 54)

Always adds tempo to proceedings but the home forwards were doing their best to stem the tide and it was not an easy task... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Jonny Sexton (Racing Metro)