Paris (AFP) – Super-sub Dan Carter played a game-changing cameo as Racing 92 beat Top 14 rivals Clermont 28-17 on Sunday to set up a European Champions Cup semi-final against Munster.
Carter replaced Virimi Vakatawa on the hour mark with strict instructions to speed the game up with ball in hand against a tiring Clermont side.
He did exactly that, the ex-All Black producing a defence-busting jink and pass to Marc Andreu that saw the winger in for a decisive try.
“Coming to play in France, Europe was on my priority list,” said Carter, who amassed a world record 1,598 points in 112 Tests for New Zealand.
“Clermont is a tough place to come and play and even tougher to win.”
Carter dubbed Munster, who edged three-time champions Toulon 20-19 on Saturday, the “form side in Europe”.
“They’re a class side, well drilled, so we’re going to have pull something special out to get to the final.”
Clermont, who were hammered 49-0 by Toulon in the Top 14 last week, took an early lead through three Morgan Parra penalties.
Racing’s Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa scored the first try of a fiercely-contested game at a packed-out Marcel-Michelin stadium.
Marc Andreu ducked a tackle and weaved his way upfield before offloading to versatile hooker Camille Chat. The ball was quickly recycled to Nakawara, who saw a gaping hole open up in front of him for a jaunt in to the side of the posts.
Clermont responded immediately through Peter Betham, the Australian winger taking a long Parra pass and fending off Louis Dupichot for a try in the corner.
Maxime Machenaud kicked a penalty to drag Racing to within a point of the home team to leave the game finely poised at half-time.
The France scrum-half briefly took Racing into the lead with another penalty early in the second period before Parra restored Clermont’s hold.
Everything then changed in the space of a couple of minutes after the introduction of super-sub Carter.
First, Carter left the vocal ‘yellow army’ of home fans raging after he got away with a marginally flat pass that saw Andreu into space and over for Racing’s second try.
And then, breaks by Carter and Teddy Thomas left Clermont’s defence split, Boris Palu taking a long pass and riding Nick Abendanon’s tackle for a five-pointer to bury Clermont’s hopes.