Dream start for Carter at Racing

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Carter kicked three conversions and was happy to sit deep in the pocket and allow half-back partner Mike Phillips dictate the pace of the game through the strong home backrow of Wenceslas Lauret, Yannick Nyanga and Chris Masoe, and an ever-present front five.

Almost seven years to the day since leading Perpignan to a European Cup victory over Leicester in his last club action on the continent, Carter kicked off at a Stade Yves-du-Manoir which was not full for the New Zealander's home debut.

But that mattered little as Racing dominated the first 40 minutes, centre Henry Chavancy streaking in at the right hand corner after a sustained period of pressure from the home side.

Carter, his right knee heavily strapped, made no mistake with the tricky touchline conversion to send a swathe of sky blue and white flags afluttering.

Juan Imhoff thought he was in after the ball was recycled from the kick-off, but Saints centre Tom Stephenson tracked back to make an outstanding tackle and prevent a sure try for the Argentinian speedster.

More pressure paid off when prop Eddy Ben Arous crashed over from short range after the forwards maximised from some slack defence around the ruck. Carter hit the extras before his Saints counterpart JJ Hanrahan booted a penalty after a rare incursion into French territory.

Courtney Lawes, starting at blindside flanker instead of his usual locking position, had an opening at Carter, with an expectant French public wary of what the England player did to France fly-half Jules Plisson in the Six Nations.

But Carter gracefully stepped out of the giant hitman's way, content for Wales scrum-half Phillips to use the Racing tight five to drill holes in Northampton.

The Saints then suffered a disaster just before half-time when Victor Matfield, the 127-time capped Springbok lock, popped up in the centre with the line beckoning.

His telegraphed pass was picked off by Racing's France international full-back Brice Dulin, who raced away for a third try converted by Carter.

Irish referee George Clancy then disallowed Northampton centre Luther Burrell a try as the English club sought some parity.

Racing notched up an attacking bonus point minutes into the second period when Dulin crossed for his second try thanks to a great charge and offload from former Chiefs prop and one-time All Black hopeful Ben Tameifuna, weighing in at 134kg (21 stone). Carter's conversion came back off the crossbar.

Aside from the rampaging Tameifuna, there were three other New Zealanders on the pitch: the dangerous-looking Fiji-born winger Joe Rokocoko, who made his debut for the All Blacks a week before Carter in June 2003, going on to score 46 tries in 68 caps.

Outside Carter was also Samoa-born centre Casey Laulala, who made his debut in the 26-25 victory over Wales in 2004 alongside Carter and Rokocoko.

Samoa-born No.8 Chris Masoe, who won the first of his 20 All Black caps alongside Carter in the 41-3 victory over Wales in 2005, completed the Kiwi line-up in the expensively-assembled side.

Carter was subbed off to cheers and more flag-waving in the 63rd minute, replaced by ex-Springbok playmaker Johan Goosen.

With Wales lock Luke Charteris to the fore, Racing rounded off an impressive display when Imhoff crossed for the team's fifth try to rub the salt into the wounds of a disappointing Northampton side, Goosen converting. – AFP

Original source: Dream start for Carter at Racing

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