La Rochelle throttle Racing and reach Top 14 semifinal

Colombes (France) (AFP) –


La Rochelle eased into the semi-finals of the Top 14 by winning 19-13 away to Racing 92 in the opening match of the Top 14 playoffs on Friday.

Racing finished one place higher in the final table but had to play the quarterfinal at their old home in Colombes because Canadian-born French pop star Mylene Farmer had already booked their Arena at La defence for concerts this weekend.

Racing could make no headway against the La Rochelle defence in the first half, turning the ball over repeatedly and conceding a string of penalties.

Fly half Ihaia West had kicked the Maritimers to a 12-point lead before Racing scrum half Maxime Machenaud struck back for the home side with a penalty on the stroke of half time.

Racing had just lost centre Henry Chavancy to a yellow card.

The home team were still a man down when winger Arthur Retiere scored La Rochelle's only try. West converted to stretch the lead to 16 points.

Leone Nakarawa replied with a try for Racing with 13 minutes left. A penalty from Teddy Iribaren closed the gap to six points. But Racing could not break through. Teddy Thomas spilled one chance straining for the yards near the line.

La Rochelle, who lost their only previous semifinal in 2017, now face the daunting obstacle of Toulouse, who dominated the regular season, in Bordeaux.