Stade Toulousain beat Racing 92 in the semi-finals and continue their run for the title

By entering the grass of the Anoeta stadium in Donostia-San Sebastián, the players of Stade Toulousain and Racing 92 ended a long wait: it had been more than a decade since a knockout rugby match had been played in this emblematic stadium of the Spanish Basque Country. On Friday, the almost 40,000 spectators of the Top 14 semifinal thus rediscovered, in the warm Basque humidity, the scent of these very special matches which, more than ten years ago, left indelible memories for fans of the oval ball.

Tonight, remember, the people of Toulouse have forged some. At the end of a match which they totally dominated, they crushed Racing 92 (41-14), and now they are on their way to a final, next Saturday at the Stade de France, and the chance to be successful in their season.

All day long, Sky and White were dominated. It’s anecdotal, but it started on the streets of the inner city. A few hours before kick-off, we struggled to find residents of Ile-de-France: the rare blue-and-white jerseys were those of the city’s soccer team, Real Sociedad. The people of Toulouse were everywhere: beer in hand in front of the bars, strolling along the seafront under the surprised eyes of locals not always familiar with rugby, and finally forming a noisy AC Milan stream along the avenue leading to the Anoeta stadium.

Read also: Toulouse-Racing 92: Against Toulouse, Gaël Fickou continues his tour of his former clubs

In the stadium, even the handful of Ile-de-France supporters were outnumbered, inaudible to the songs of thousands of Toulouse residents. And even Sky and Bianchi were unable to do anything on the field. “We knew there was a gap, but we didn’t think about it so much”sighed Gaël Fickou, the Racing 92 captain, after the match, visibly scarred and disappointed. “We weren’t invited tonight”confirmed his coach, Laurent Travers.

Racing 92 could do nothing

His team deluded for about fifteen minutes. Solid, they answered in Toulouse a bit clumsily. The latter promptly corrected what should have been, and from the twentieth minute the victory of the players of the pink city seemed inevitable.

It was then that they scored two tries in five minutes: one from Matthis Lebel, perfectly bowled at half-time, and the other from the colossus Emmanuel Meafou who lay in the in-goal after a series of charges near the Île-de-linea France. Having once again become dominant in hand-to-hand combat and clashes, very aggressive in defense, confiscating the ball, Stade Toulouse neutralized an all too clumsy Racing, guilty of a multitude of attackers and wrong tackles. When it came time to return to the dressing room, Toulouse were already leading by 20 points to nil.

In the second half, nothing seemed to stand in the way of Toulouse’s march to victory. How many times has Racing 92 started an interesting play before being annihilated, here by a striker, there by a formidable tackle from a man in AC Milan?

Fresh and rested Toulouse inhabitants

For their part, the Toulousanese continued to sink their opponents by quickly scoring two new tries, one from a pass after contact from Richie Arnold to Alexandre Roumat, the other thanks to a sumptuous “chistera” blind from ‘Antoine Dupont that raised all Anoeta and made the score 32 nil.

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Racing could have taken advantage of a Toulouse stadium who, knowing they had won the victory, decided to slow down. But the people of Toulouse never relaxed. Thanks, no doubt, to their physical freshness, precious in the humidity and Basque heat. Secure in their place in San Sebastián and out of the race for Europe for more than a month, the people of Toulouse have had plenty of time to spare their manpower. A very different situation compared to last year: “We had suffered, we arrived flushed in the semifinal. For us it has been an obsession this season to arrive with a fresh, regenerated group.deciphered Clément Poitrenaud after the match.

Racing 92 still managed to score two tries. One, at 77And minute, it owes only to them and their altruism. But the other is, in a certain sense, the fruit of Toulouse’s madness and talent: after a magnificent recovery that saw almost the entire line of the Toulouse backline touch the ball, Racing’s Baptiste Chouzenoux recovered the ball, remounted the field and launched Gaël Fickou towards the test.

A failed season for Racing 92

This crushing defeat confirms the failure of the 2022-2023 season for the Hauts-de-Seine team. Despite its major hexagonal and continental ambitions, Racing will have won nothing this year.

Without a final in Saint-Denis, this match in the Basque Country was the last on the bench for Laurent Travers, director of rugby. Next year he will replace Jacky Lorenzetti as club president. Racing 92 also parts with one of its nuggets – it was Finn Russell’s last game in France. The Scottish opener for Racing, who has signed with Bath, England, will no longer give away the championship with his delightful passes, indecipherable runs and improbable gestures.

At the end of this match, Toulouse are where all observers expected them to be. In the final, against the winner of Saturday’s match, at 5pm, which will see Stade Rochelais and Union Bordeaux-Bègles compete. But tonight the victory on Basque soil will hardly matter if in a week’s time, at the Stade de France, Stade Toulouse does not take possession of Brennus’ scudetto. After his season and his evening event, Toulouse seem to have all the cards in hand. But as Toulouse coach Ugo Mola reminded us before the semi-final, “Regularity, if not to say that we are efficient over time, which offers nothing. In the end, the only thing is to win.”.