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Star of the match Lauret grabbed three tries for Racing, with winger Juan Imhoff also crossing twice in the first half; Northampton responded with tries from Courtnall Skosan and Fraser Dingwall, while Lewis Ludlam had a score ruled out too

Last Updated: 10/12/21 10:21pm

Wenceslas Lauret celebrates scoring Racing’s first try against Northampton

A hat-trick from Wenceslas Lauret helped Racing 92 to a convincing 45-14 victory over Northampton Saints in the opening match of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup.

Juan Imhoff’s first-half double and one from flanker Lauret, plus Maxime Machenaud kicking four from five attempts at goal, had the French side holding a comfortable 28-7 lead at half-time.

Lauret ran in two more after the break to seal the bonus point, and although Northampton grabbed a second through Fraser Dingwall and had another try from Lewis Ludlam harshly ruled out, the Gallagher Premiership side ultimately ended the game empty-handed.

The visitors sit eighth in the Top 14 table but there was no sign of their domestic strife as maverick Scotland fly-half Finn Russell linked brilliantly with Australia full-back Kurtley Beale to torment a disappointing Northampton.

Another moment of magic from the Lions playmaker helped Lauret to his hat-trick in the second half as Saints endured a chastening evening on which they were beaten in all departments by the three-time finalists.

Courtney Lawes was missing for the Premiership’s third-placed team after it was revealed before kick-off that he was to sit out a second game because of Covid-19, but even the presence of England’s stand-in captain would have made little impact.

It looked bleak as early as the opening eight minutes when Racing surged 13-0 ahead, launching their assault with two penalty from scrum-half Machenaud before crossing through Lauret.

Juan Imhoff crossed twice for Racing in the win over Northampton

Juan Imhoff crossed twice for Racing in the win over Northampton

The second row was the beneficiary of frail Saints defending and dazzling interplay between Russell and Beale, who exploited a large gap around the ruck.

Saints exerted some pressure for the first time, but they were scrappy as a poor pass to George Furbank hit the ground and Racing seized the opportunity to pour downfield.

Russell and Beale were pulling the strings to deadly effect, but once more it was Northampton’s defence that was at fault as the Parisians engineered a second try when the Scot sent Imhoff racing over.

Saints eventually came alive on the half-hour mark when a period of attack reached the critical moment as Lewis Ludlam held the ball up close to the touchline and fed Matt Proctor, whose smart kick was touched down by South African winger Skosan.

Northampton's Tommy Freeman runs at the Racing defence

Northampton’s Tommy Freeman runs at the Racing defence

Any fightback hinged upon building on the try, but instead Racing plundered their third and, as before, it was a combination of Russell’s magic and a Northampton lapse in concentration that led to the score.

A maul did the initial damage as the home pack were sent hurtling backwards and Russell pulled the trigger by firing a long pass to Beale, who presented Imhoff with a simple run-in.

And the second half had barely started when Russell set off on a classy run that teed up a second try for Lauret via an off-load over the top.

Northampton hit back when centre Dingwall reached out to touch down, but they still trailed 38-14 heading into the final quarter and, when Gael Fickou burst through the midfield for Lauret to complete his hat-trick, the floodgates were opening.

Ludlam had a try ruled out for a dubious block by Ollie Sleightholme as part of a strong finish from the home side, but Racing were already out of sight.



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