Late Russell magic sees Racing past Saracens and into Champions Cup final

Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan started for the French club, who won with Juan Imhoff’s 76th-minute try.

Racing 19

Saracens 15

IT LOOKED AS though Saracens had ground their way into another European final but, with the clock running down and Racing seemingly beaten, Finn Russell produced his moment of magic.

He had been shut down by the imposing Saracens defence up until this moment but kept believing in his attacking class to produce a perfect chip over the English side’s advancing line for centre Virimi Vakatawa to gather on the full.

Vakatawa passed back to Russell, working hard to support, and the brilliant Scotland out-half calmly moved the ball on to finisher extraordinaire Juan Imhoff to send Racing into their third Champions Cup final with his 76th-minute try.

virimi-vakatawa-and-simon-zebo-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Virimi Vakatawa and Simon Zebo celebrate. Dave Winter / INPHO Dave Winter / INPHO / INPHO

The Top 14 side advance into the European decider in three weekends’ time and will face the winner of today’s Exeter and Toulouse semi-final, having come close to being completely stifled by Mark McCall’s Saracens.

Stand-in out-half Alex Goode had slotted five penalties for the English outfit to leave them 15-12 ahead in the closing 10 minutes but Racing finally found a solution as Imhoff finished.

Racing’s Irish trio of the energetic Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan – who was superb in the second row – and attack coach Mike Prendergast were all part of the victory as the French club’s quest to win their first European title continues.

They had scored four penalties from scrum-halves Teddy Iribaren and Maxime Machenaud’s place-kicking at their Paris La Défense Arena to keep themselves in touch with Saracens before that brilliant late flourish.

richard-wigglesworth-kicks-past-donnacha-ryan Donnacha Ryan and Racing are into the final.

Racing had been 9-6 ahead at the half-time break of this semi-final but Saracens ground their way into a 15-9 lead in the third quarter.

Machenaud’s penalty drew Racing back to within three points with 10 minutes left and Racing finally produced a big linebreak through centre Virimi Vakatawa only to knock on inside the Saracens 22.

It looked like it might be the last chance but Russell conjured his magic and Racing advance onto the final as McCall’s Saracens bow out of top-level rugby for a season.

Racing scorers:

Tries: Juan Imhoff

Conversion: Maxime Machenaud [1 from 1]

Penalties: Teddy Iribaren [3 from 4], Maxime Machenaud [1 from 1]

Saracens scorers:

Penalties: Alex Goode [5 from 5] 

- This article was updated at 5.29pm on 27 September to correct the caption under the second photo.

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