Racing 92 took control of Pool 3 of the Champions Cup in Colombes, propelled by a brutal clan of ball carriers and clinical finishers in a game that hinged on two moments right before half-time.
A pair of early tries were just reward following a bullying period for the hosts, but when Saints had their own squeeze on an interception and then the intervention of referee George Clancy ensured a 21-3 deficit at the break was too much to even begin to overturn.
It leaves the French side a point clear at the top of the table and with a game in hand ahead of the huge re-match at Franklin’s Gardens next Friday evening.
Racing showed early signs of their intentions, Joe Rokocoko and the huge Benjamin Tameifuna making telling bursts and while the Saints did their utmost to square up physically, the hosts’ next visit to the 22 ended with Henry Chavancy crashing over on the right to finish off another bruising set of phases.
It almost became worse, too, Juan Imhoff only denied a breakaway score by Tom Stephenson’s defensive brilliance, but it was to be only brief reprieve. With Tameifuna again to the fore, the blue and white juggernaut blasted it’s way through, Eddy Ben Arous with the final contribution, and Carter clipped over his second conversion to double the lead.
Possession and territory were proving hard to come by, but when a penalty took Saints up to the fringes of the 22, Sam Dickinson made a break of his own to put Racing under pressure, pressure they were only too happy to relieve with the concession of three points to JJ Hanrahan.
It was the fly half’s dummy, surge and offload that again had the Parisians under the cosh, but as the Saints looked set to make the most of men out wide, Brice Dulin chanced his arm and plucked Victor Matfield’s pass from the air. The full back went the length to further compound frustrations that peaked when Luther Burrell was denied what appeared a legitimate try on the stroke of half-time.
Had the centre got the rub of the green and Matfield’s pass gone to hand before that, Saints could feasibly have gone in ahead. Instead, the 14-point swing meant they turned around facing a big deficit and desperately needing to score first after the break.
Unfortunately for them, it was Racing who came out all guns blazing and Tameifuna provided another wrecking ball assist for Dulin’s second - the home side’s bonus point score.
Yet just as they had at the end of the first half, Saints continued to work hard and a series of penalties took them within touching distance of the Racing line. A snaking break from Stephenson had them even closer but, as was the theme of the night, his subsequent burst beside the posts was from a pass deemed forward by referee George Clancy.
Time and again they pressed forward, but when Stephenson lost control of the ball in a borderline spear tackle, the home side turned it on one final time, sweeping upfield where Imhoff helped himself to number five to leave the visitors empty handed in every sense.
13mins RACING Try Chancy Con Carter 7-0
19mins RACING Try Ben Arous Con Carter 14-0
29mins SAINTS Pen Hanrahan 14-3
36mins RACING Try Dulin Con Carter 21-3
HALF-TIME RACING 21 SAINTS 3
43mins RACING Try Dulin 26-3
74mins RACING Try Imhoff Con Goosen 33-3
FULL-TIME RACING 33 SAINTS 3
RACING 92 Dulin; Rokocoko, Laulala, Chavancy, Imhoff; Carter, Phillips; Ben Arous, Szarzewski (capt), Tameifuna, Charteris, van der Merwe, Lautet, Nyanja, Masoe
Chat, Brugnaut, Gomes Sa, Carriza, Claassen, Goosen, Dumoulin, Machenaud
SAINTS Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Stephenson, North; Hanrahan, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Paterson, Matfield, Lawes, Harrison, Dickinson
Williams, E Waller, Hill, Day, Gibson, Fotuali’i, Myler, Tuala
HEINEKEN MAN OF THE MATCH Dan Carter
REFEREE George Clancy (IRE)