Racing 92 completed a home-and-away double over Leicester Tigers in Pool 4 of the Heineken Champions Cup with a 34-11 victory at Welford Road on Sunday lunchtime.
After Tigers had taken the lead with an early George Ford penalty, they conceded two tries in the opening quarter-hour through Teddy Iribaren and Juan Imhoff and then a third on 20 minutes from Virimi Vakatawa as Racing consolidated their place at the top of Pool 4.
George Worth, capitalising on work from Manu Tuilagi and Adam Thompstone out wide, scored for Tigers on the half-hour to bring it back to 11-24 at half-time. But the second half brought more of a stalemate with defences dominating and there was a single score – from a Russell penalty – until the last seconds when Imhoff added a bonus-point score for the visitors.
Racing, last season’s Champions Cup finalists, won the opening meeting of the teams in Paris, scoring five tries in a 36-26 victory at the La Defense Arena last Sunday, though Tigers did take a try bonus point for a second successive pool fixture following the home win over the Scarlets in October.
There was a late change to the Tigers line-up with Worth called in at full-back after the withdrawal of Jonah Holmes. The return of Graham Kitchener in the second row was the only other change from last week's starting team, with Gareth Owen and Facundo Gigena called up to the bench.
It was Tigers who got the game under way after a minute’s silence in honour of Stade Francais teenager Nicolas Chauvin who tragically died recently.
After knocking-on from the opening lineout, Tigers re-gathered composure with two strong scrums and patience in attack before Ford gave them a three-point lead with a penalty after five minutes.
The last lasted only two minutes, though, as drives among the forwards took Racing up to the tryline and, despite a saving tackle from Tuilagi on Simon Zebo, scrum-half Iribaren darted over. Russell’s conversion kick made it 3-7.
A knock-on inside their own 22 had Racing on the defensive from the restart, but they were awarded a penalty as the scrum went down as Tigers tried to regain the initiative.
The award also led to a second try for the visitors, playing quickly across the width of the pitch from Russell's half-break and wing Imhoff ran in on the left. The conversion from out wide gave them a 3-14 advantage on the quarter-hour mark.
Tigers responded with a series of phases in attack, Tuilagi having half a glance at an opening on the edge before play was brought back for an illegal tackle on Sione Kalamafoni. Ford pointed to goal and added the three points.
Russell replied in kind a minute later when referee George Clancy penalised Tigers in possession on the floor to make it 6-17 with a quarter of the 80 minutes gone.
They stretched that advantage with a third try, this time from Vakatawa following a length-of-the-field break, with Bernard Le Roux brought down by Ford just short but having the support for the pop-pass to score. Russell kicked his third conversion to make it 6-24.
Tigers were called for a high tackle at the restart, but Racing missed touch and then knocked-on near halfway. Scrum-half Ben White attacked down the blindside but the Racing defence stood firm and eventually earned a penalty as they contested the tackle area.
Strong work from Brendon O’Connor halted dangerous progress from Racing as play approached the half-hour mark, winning a penalty just 20 metres from his own tryline.
From Ford’s kick down the left, an adventurous thrown got Tuilagi attacking the defensive line and Tigers had another penalty when Iribaren obstructed O’Connor on the left. Tigers got through their phases of possession, but Racing forced a handing error close to their five-metre line and the chance had gone.
Another one quickly followed as ball off the top of a lineout allowed Tigers to quickly go to the right, where Tuilagi burst through and, although Adam Thompstone was stopped fractionally short, Worth was there to pick and score.
Referee Clancy checked the proximity of the touchline and the grounding before confirming the try, though there was no sanction for what looked like high contact on Thompstone. Ford was unable to add an extra two points with the conversion as Tigers brought the score to 11-24 on 33 minutes.
Jonny May thought he was on a run to the tryline moments later, though the pass from Toomua was adjudged to have gone forward. Play, nevertheless, came back for a high tackle on White and Tigers played into the right-hand corner from the penalty with the home crowd warming to the task with their encouragement.
A big drive threatened the tryline before Racing lock Leone Nakarawa was penalised and they remained in the corner for another set-piece with 30 seconds of the half remaining.
Racing, though, stole the lineout and played out time as they reached the interval 24-11 in front.
Tigers missed their lineout man again just five metres out at the start of the second half and paid the price when Russell added a three-pointer at the end of a scrappy period in the game on 48 minutes.
A cheeky bobbling kick from Ford gave Jonny May something to chase and, when the defender missed the bounce, he was unlucky to see it cannon off his arm for a knock-on as he dived to grab it just five metres out.
Ben Youngs and Jake Kerr emerged from the bench on 53 minutes and the England scrum-half made a trademark break from a tap penalty before the referee whistled against Tigers at the breakdown.
Racing were able to take the sting out of that attack as they kicked up to halfway but prop Ben Tameifuna spilled ball under pressure and Tigers were able to set a platform from the scrum. Ford and Toomua continued to prompt in midfield but Racing stood up in defence with Iribaren dotting down behind his own line when May kicked ahead on the left.
Dan Cole was penalised for leading with his arm as he took contact in attack and, after watching the replays numerous times, the referee showed a yellow card to the Tigers prop.
A crunching hit from Spencer ended Zebo’s progress through the middle and Tigers were able to clear after a neck roll was penalised.
Cole returned to the field on 70 minutes and was quickly called into action in defence but there was little flow to the game with Racing protecting their lead and Tigers unable to find a decisive chance in attack.
Finally, Racing made a quick counter-attack and scored through Imhoff with just seconds remaining and Russell kicked the extras to close out a bonus-point win.
MAT TAIT'S MATCH SUMMARY
Full time | Tigers 11-34 Racing
That's it from Welford Road this afternoon as Tigers suffer a 11-34 loss to Racing in Europe.
Tigers are back in action here at Welford Road next week for the visit of Harlquins in the Gallagher Premiership. Match tickets are available by visiting the Tigers ticket office or by visiting LeicesterTigers.com.
A safe trip home to everyone at Welford Road today.
Finn Russell kicks for the matches final points and George Clancy blows the full time whistle.
Racing wing Juan Imhoff scores his second try of the game and Finn Russell now with the chance to add the extras.
Tigers are penalised for a high tackle from George Ford and Racing break into the Tigers half. Some neat work from Racing allow Juan Imhoff to sneak over the line.
Gaston Cortes takes the place of Dan Cole for Tigers as we head into the final minute.
Tigers attacking the Racing backline but lose posession and Racing fly-half Finn Russell finds a gap in the Tigers line. He's held up and Tigers win the turnover.
Tigers going through the phases...
Final five minutes...
We head into the final five minutes here at Welford Road and both teams are fighting for every play out there. Tigers clear from the boot of George Ford who finds touch in the Racing half, just past the 22.
Welford Road make themselves heard...Racing line out.
Ellis Genge makes way for Facundo Gigena to a loud applause from Welford Road.
Tigers Gareth Owen is coming on for Manu Tuilagi.
Tigers Mike Williams is on for Sione Kalamafoni as Tigers clear their lines. Dan Cole and Adam Thompstone return to the field as Gaston Cortes returns to the bench.
Tigers now back up to full strength with just ten minutes left.
Tigers gaining ground
Some tidy work from the Tigers midfield works an opening for Ellis Genge but the ball is lost and Racing clear into touch, They come back at Tigers who are now pinned back onto their metre line. George Worth clears up and we have a Tigers scrum deep in Tigers terrirtory.
Tigers win the penalty in their own half to relieve some pressure and kick into touch. Tigers line out on the half-way line.
Racing replace Antione Claassen and Teddy Iribaren with Fabien Sanconnie and Maxime Machenaud.
Tigers prop Gaston Cortes comes on for Adam Thompstone as a yellow card replacement.
It's getting tasty
Possesion changes hands and Manu is able to force a line-out for Tigers after a George Worth kick. Tigers Jonny May and Ellis Genge are in the thick of it as both teams come together as tempers flare. Both teams pushing for posession once again and we have a Racing line-out just in thier own half.
Racing No.13 Virimi Vakatawa makes way for Olivier Klemenczak.
Tigers down to 14
Tigers prop Dan Cole is sent to the sin bin and Tigers are down to 14.
Ref checking TMO for raised arm
George Clancy brings the play back to look at an apparent raised arm by Dan Cole.
Guy Thompson enters the field of play in place of Brendon O'Connor for Tigers as we head towards the hour mark.
It's Ben Tameifuna who makes way for Racing No.18 Cedate Gomes Sa.
Tigers driving forward
Tigers are moving the ball with pace across the field forcing the penalty errors from Racing. Two knock ons and some quick thinking from Ben Youngs helps create some space out wide but Jonny May chases a low kick and Racing call mark.
There's a change in the Tigers second row as Harry Wells comes on for Graham Kitchener.
Ben White and Tatafu Polota-Nau make way for Ben Youngs and Jake Kerr for Tigers.
May forces knock on
Some great running from Tigers wing Jonny May forces a knock on after a George Ford kick. It's a Racing scrum with the ball on their five metre line.
MAT TAIT'S TALKING POINTS
Racing make a change with hooker Visil Kakovin coming on for Guram Gogichashvili.
Finn Russell adds to Racing's points tally following a scrum penalty against Tigers Dan Cole.
It's a knock on by Racing and Tigers with another chance to test the Racing pack with a scrum.
Tigers miss the line-out and Racing regain possession before moving the ball across the pitch and out into touch. It's a quick restart and Tigers are penalised for a high tackle from Dan Cole. Racing kick into touch in the Tigers half.
Tigers opt for the scrum following a forward pass from Simon Zebo, ansd Racing are penalised for collapsing the scrum. Scrum-half Ben White finds touch as Tigers apply the pressure early in the second half.
Racing and Finn Russell kick-off the second-half here at Welford Road.
Taity's three word summary...
"Errors relieving pressure"
Tigers very own Mathew Tait gives his three-word first half review.
Half-time | Tigers 11-24 Racing
Racing manage to hold firm and Iribaren collects the ball and kicks into touch bringing an end-to-end first half to a close.
Tigers piling on pressure
Heading into the final few minutes and Tigers are throwing everything at the Racing defence. Manu is stopped yards from the Racing line but there's a penalty for side entry from Racing and we have a break in play.
Tigers have a scrum on the half-way line following a knock on from Racing. The Tigers pack have made their presence felt so far and they continue to make the yards. Ben White finds Manu with another powerful run. An offiside call, and White quickly darts forward. Toomua finds a searching pass to Jonny May on the left flank, but George Clancy pulls back the play for a high tackle on Ben White. Nothing given and Tigers kick into touch.
And George Clancy awards the try for Tigers! It's George Worth who made the final touch as Tigers get the points. Ford misses the conversion from a tight angle.
Tigers break away
Tigers break away down the right flank after some powerful running from Manu. He finds Adam Thompstone in space who squeezes into the corner. The refs checking the TMO...
MAT TAIT'S TALKING POINTS
Tigers work the ball well from the line-out but are held on the half-way line. George Ford sends a high ball into the air for flanker Brendon O'Connor to chase but Racing's Teddy Iribaren gets in his way and the ref calls a penalty. Tigers work it quick and push up the pitch by Tigers Genge knocks on. It's a scrum in front of the Racing posts...
Tigers holding firm
Racing applying pressure in the Tigers half with a series of huge hits. But Racing persist and are edging forwards...bu the ref spots a penalty as the ball carrier doesn't release the ball and Ford finds touch for Tigers.
Tigers making strides
Following another scrum for a Racing penalty, Tigers work the ball wide after some fast hands from Tigers scrum-half Ben White. He finds George Worth on the wing but is halted by the Racing defence. Tigers punished for not releasing and there's a break in play as both teams look to catch their breathe.
Finn Russell kicks his forth kick of the game as Racing extend their lead on the 20 minute mark.
Another Racing try
Tigers concede another Racing try as Virimi Vakataw runs the length of the pitch after some neat work from the Racing backline.
MAT TAIT'S TALKING POINTS
George Ford keeps on the pressure kicking Tigers to 6 points to Racing's 14. 15 minutes gone.
It's another huge kick from George Ford to get us underway and Tigers pile on the pressure. After going through the phases, Racing a penalised for playing the man without the ball and Ford now with the chance to kick another Tigers penalty...
Racing fly-half Finn Russell makes no mistake from the boot and Racing extend their lead 3-14 with 13 minutes on the clock.
Racing break from the line-out and work the ball across the pitch as Zebo finds a gap and darts towards the line. He offloads to Juan Imhoff on the wing who goes over. Racing lead 3 -12
Break in play
Fordy gets us underway again and Tigers charge into the Racing backline. Manu again with a huge hit on Ben Tameifuna and there's a knock on from Racing for a Tigers penalty.
Tigers opt for the scrum but a penalised for collasping the scrum. Racing kick into touch on the half-way mark.
And fly-half Finn Russell adds the extras from the boot as Racing lead 3-7 in the ninth minute.
But Racing have enough to get the ball over. scrum-half Teddy Iribaren manages to squeeze over in front of the posts after some great work in the breakdown by Racing's forwards.
Racing restart and Tigers are penalised for not releasing the ball. Finn Russell now with the chance to extend Racing's lead. And he does. It's end to end at the minute.
It's a strong reaction from Racing who launch the ball into the Tigers half and play some nice passes across the field of play. Tigers defence holding firm and Manu manages to stop Racing full back Simon Zebo inches from the line...
Tigers lead by three points
And it's over! Tigers fly-half Goerge Ford does the business from the kicking tee and Tigers lead just short of five minutes in,
Early Tigers pressure
Tigers win the line-out and immediately press the Racing defence. Sweeping the ball from left to right - and some improvisation from Jonny May results in an offside for Racing. Ford opts to kick just short of the Racing 22.
Tigers find touch
No advantage for Tigers and today's ref George Clancy calls back the penalty and Ford finds touch in the Racing 22.
Battle in the middle of the park
Tigers gain yards with the scrum but Racing get the ball out and play it out wide. Tigers No.12 Toomua rips the ball from the huge Ben Tameifuna but the ref brings back the play.
George Ford gets us underway kicking into touch before a quick line-out from Racing 92, but there's a knock-on in the Racing half. First scrum of the game.
Welford Road tribute to french academy player
Welford Road falls silent in tribute to Nicolas Chauvin, the nineteen year old Stade Francais academy player who passed away earlier this week.
Both teams make their way out...GAME TIME!
The Racing team make their way out onto the pitch followed by Tigers led out by skipper for the day George Ford.
Five to go...
Tigers make their way into the changing rooms to a rapturous cheer from the home crowd.
Even Taity clapped them in...
Taity's view pitchside
10 minutes until kick-off
There's just 10 minutes until we get underway here at Welford Road. Both teams are running through their final preparations as today's supporters begin to take their places before kick-off.
There will be a minute's silence ahead of today's kick-off to pay tribute to Nicolas Chauvin, the 19 year-old Stade Francais Paris academy player who passed away this week.
Tigers' Mat Tait joining MDL live today
Team line-ups | Change for Tigers
European Rugby returns to Welford Road
Welcome to a bustling Welford Road for today's Round 4 Heineken Champions Cup fixture as Tigers take on Racing 92 in just under half an hour in a rematch of last weekend's Round 3 fixture.
The two clubs have met on 10 occasions - the first being in 1922 - and Racing's 23-20 victory last season was the first for a French side at Welford Road since Biarritz in January 2005.