Poupart Julien/ABACA Finn Russell in possession for Racing 92 during their 49-0 win against La Rochelle in the Top 14.
La Rochelle branded 'a disgrace' by Gibbes after trouncing by Russell-inspired Racing
The Scottish out-half was at the heart of the 49-0 win.

FINN RUSSELL HANDED out another taster of what Scotland are missing as he helped guide Racing 92 to a 49-0 thrashing of La Rochelle in Top 14 action on Saturday.

Russell was at the heart of a Racing performance that saw the home side — missing France internationals Camille Chat, Teddy Thomas, Bernard Le Roux and Virimi Vakatawa — shoot out to a 25-0 half-time lead, going on to consolidate their dominance in a seven-try thumping that La Rochelle director of rugby Jono Gibbes dubbed a “disgrace”.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has decided against selecting Russell so far in the Six Nations after falling out with the out-half. In his absence, Scotland suffered losses to England and Ireland before rebounding to beat Italy last week to lift, slightly, the pressure on Townsend for Russell’s non-selection.

“It’s exactly what we’d forecast,” Racing prop Cedate Gomes Sa said of the result. “We really wanted to play this match to the max before the international break. And for the first time we were able to do so from the first to the 80th minute.”

La Rochelle skipper Victor Vito was left scrambling for positives from the thrashing.

“It’s the first time we’ve shipped points like that,” lamented the ex-All Black, a two-time World Cup winner. “Either we crack or we come back,” he said. “In the end I think it’ll be a good thing. We have qualities but we didn’t show them today.”

Racing, who lost Irish fullback Simon Zebo to injury in the 63rd minute, opened the scoring through hooker Teddy Baubigny, driven over from an attacking line-out maul after Jules Plisson’s deliberate knock-on.

There then followed two intercept tries. The first came from Russell, from 60 metres out, the second from Dorian Laborde thanks to Francois Trinh-Duc, who picked off Vito’s pass and offloaded before collapsing with a hamstring injury.

Racing extended their half-time lead within four minutes of the restart for the second period, centre Olivier Klemenczak driving his way over in the corner after a long, looping pass from Fijian playmaker Ben Volavola.

Fabien Sanconnie crossed for Racing’s fifth try after a smart Laborde offload before Maxime Machenaud added salt to La Rochelle’s wounds, pouncing on a ball that had popped loose from a close-range scrum.

Replacement Racing prop Hassane Kolingar rounded off a nightmare match for the Ronan O’Gara-coached La Rochelle side, doing well to wrestle his way to the line, Machenaud going wide with the conversion to at least save the visitors a humiliating 50-plus defeat.

“It’s tough for our supporters and the club… it’s a disgrace,” said Gibbes, a former All Black flanker/lock who previously coached at Leinster, Clermont and Ulster. “49-0, there’s no excuse, it’s my responsibility. Today we took part in the match, but we didn’t play.”

In later games, defending champions Toulouse slumped to a 20-10 defeat at Bayonne, while title hopefuls Lyon were also beaten, 30-6 at Brive. Brive’s three tries all came in the first half with a 19-minute hat-trick from winger Joris Jurand.

The mid-table side are used to pulling off shocks — they defeated league leaders Bordeaux-Begles 30-9 in October.

Sunday sees Bordeaux host Castres, while ex-Italy captain Sergio Parisse turns out for Toulon at home against his former long-time club Stade Francais.

© – AFP, 2020

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