Harlequins demolished by classy Racing

Harlequins found Racing 92 way too hot to handle as the three-times European Champions Cup runners-up showed their class i n a 49-7 victory.

The result had local scribes frantically checking to confirm whether this was the worst home defeat in the club’s history. It was merely one of the worst, though at least it was against a side of undoubted excellence.

The visitors’ speed, decision-making and execution were of the highest order and the 7-1 try count in their favour was a fair reflection of their dominance.

Paul Gustard’s men, beaten at Munster in their opening pool match in this new format for Europe’s elite competition, were shocked by the concession of an early try from Teddy Thomas and never really recovered.

The penalty count against them told the story of the pressure that the Parisians exerted. This was a team beaten by Exeter Chiefs just a few short weeks ago in the final, so their dazzling performance was hardly surprising.

France wing Thomas picked up near half way and ran an unimpeded slanting line, cutting from the right towards the left corner flag – scrum-half Maxime Machenaud converting.

Marcus Smith struck a post with a long-distance penalty and Nathan Earle had to be helped from the field with a leg injury as a theme took hold.

Another Machenaud penalty then extended Racing’s lead before forward Kevin Le Guen scored after an almighty collective shove after a catch and drive from near 5m. The extras made it 17-0 and Machenaud’s unerring boot made it 20-0 in almost as many minutes.

Racing started the second half much as they started the first, with Ireland full-back Simon Zebo ghosting down the left past non-existent cover – making it all look far too easy.

Racing have the backs, but they also have the muscle and they collected a fourth try to break the 30-point barrier when Georges-Henri Colombe went over after another close-range rolling maul.

With Quins visibly wilting, Racing started to carve the home side up even more, their recycling and floated kicks out to the wings exposing the home side time and again, and from one such move, wing Donovan Taofifenua picked up and spun past his man to touch down.

And there was still time for another quick raid, and dazzling offloads, leading to a sixth Racing try for hooker Teddy Baubigny, converted this time by Francois Trinh-Duc, who was then on the end of another determined close-range move from a relentless Racing side for try number seven.

Amidst the battering, Scott Steele did race over for a consolation try, Smith converting, to get the hosts on the scoreboard. But this was a chastening afternoon.

With only four from 12 advancing from the pool to the quarter-finals – and only two more matches left – interest in the competition looks likely to be short-lived.

Harlequins play the return fixture at Racing’s La Defense Arena on January 17 before concluding the group stage against Munster at the Stoop on January 23.

Quins are back in Premiership action on Boxing Day when they entertain Bristol Bears (2pm).