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Carter magic lifts Racing into Top 14 play-offs

© AFP | Racing 92's Dan Carter runs with the ball during their French Top 14 rugby union match against Bordeaux-Begles at the Yves du Manoir stadium in Colombes on May 6, 2017

PARIS (AFP) - 

All Black legend Dan Carter's late try sealed Racing 92's unlikely ticket to the French Top 14 play-offs on a gripping end to the regular season on Saturday.

Carter's 71st-minute contribution earned defending champions Racing a come-from-behind 22-20 win over Bordeaux-Begles who were bossing the game 20-3 after 50 minutes.

Racing picked up the sixth and final play-off berth to qualify for the end-of-season quarter-finals along with Montpellier, Toulon and Castres.

Top-of-the-table La Rochelle, chasing a maiden Top 14 title, were beaten 30-26 by Clermont for whom this was a perfect confidence booster ahead of next weekend's European Cup final against Saracens in Edinburgh.

Clermont's win earned them the second automatic semi-final spot with La Rochelle.

Racing's dramatic success meant their fierce Paris rivals Stade Francais, who went into Saturday's final throw of the dice neck and neck on points, missed the play-off cut after their 27-26 loss to Montpellier.

Carter's starring role was the latest chapter in a roller-coaster season.

A high profile drink driving incident, lengthy time off with a groin injury, and dealing with the aftermath of a positive drugs test have all conspired to test the New Zealander's resolve.

Racing have had their own issues, with the damaging fall-out of their aborted merger with Stade Francais.

And their season looked to be ending on a miserable note when Bordeaux raced into a commanding lead with tries from Australian duo Adam Ashley-Cooper and Blair Connor.

Racing got back into the game with Yannick Nyanga's 56th minute touchdown and Leone Nakarawa's try four minutes later, before Carter completed the unlikely comeback.

The win saw them end the regulation season on 62 points, three clear of Stade Francais.

Toulouse, absent from the play-offs for the first time in 41 years, routed relegated Bayonne 40-12 to offer retiring France great Thierry Dusautoir a fitting send-off.

In the quarter-finals, third-placed Montpellier host Racing on May 20, with the winner going on to face La Rochelle in the last four.

Toulon, who beat Pau 32-12 to finish fourth, face fifth-placed Castres 24 hours earlier, with Clermont waiting for the winner in the semis.

Both the May 26/27 semi-finals are at Marseille's Stade Velodrome.

The Top 14 final is on June 4 at the Stade de France.

© 2017 AFP