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Triple Thomas propels Racing to crushing victory over La Rochelle

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Paris (AFP)

Teddy Thomas scored a hat-trick of tries as Racing92 beat La Rochelle 50-14 in the French Top14 at the Defense Arena on Saturday.

The France winger, not included in Jacques Brunel's Six Nations squad afer an injury before the beginning of the competition, dotted down three times in the space of 62 minutes as the Parisians moved above city rivals Stade Francais into the play-off places.

The thumping was Racing's first league win since January 5 and keeps their hopes of a berth in the top six at the end of the season alive which will be boosted by the short-term arrival of double World Cup winner Dan Carter later this month.

La Rochelle lost for a second Saturday in a row after a surprising home loss to Stade Francais last weekend but remain in fourth spot.

The hosts raced into a 19-0 lead after just 12 minutes as Dominic Bird bundled his way over for the first try of the match and Thomas scored his two opening touchdowns.

On both occasions Thomas found space out wide and then beat an opposition man to dot down comfortably unopposed.

Racing were cruising on the artificial pitch at La Defense Arena and teenager Jordan Joseph wrestled his way over after 24 minutes.

La Rochelle's reply came on the half hour mark with Jeremy Sinzelle finding a gap to score.

Scotland outside-half Finn Russell claimed his fourth try of the season to give his side a dominant 29-7 half-time lead.

La Rochelle, boosted by four members of France's Six Nations squad in Pierre Bourgarit, Uini Atonio and Geoffrey Doumayrou, who all started, and Dany Priso, on the bench, began the second period with vigour and intent.

Sinzelle added a second and Ihaia West was perfect with a conversion to bring the teams within 15 points.

The visitors' hope of a monstrous comeback were washed out on the hour mark as Thomas claimed his hat-trick to take his tally in an injury-ravaged season to five tries in seven games in all competitions.

Argentina's Juan Imhoff added a seventh home try with 10 minutes to play and Henry Chavancy's 80th minute effort boosted by Benjamin Volavola's conversion to take Racing past 50 points.

Later on Saturday, Clermont can close the gap on leaders Toulouse against strugglers Grenoble, troubled Montpellier host Bordeaux-Begles, Pau face Agen and champions Castres head to high-flying Lyon.

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