Dan Carter moved one step closer to completing the clean sweep of world rugby’s premier trophies, booting Racing 92 into the European Champions Cup final.
The All Blacks World Cup winner landed 11 points as the Paris side ground out a 19-16 semi-final victory over mistake-ridden Leicester.
Former New Zealand stand-off Carter’s largely error-free showing proved stark contrast to Leicester’s ragged performance, as Racing denied an all-English final for the first time since 2007.
Carter already boasts four Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, nine Rugby Championship victories and the 2015 World Cup triumph with New Zealand – but he is in Europe to claim the Champions Cup and French Top 14.
Only Saracens now stand between Carter and part one of that northern hemisphere club trophy hunt, with Racing into their first top-tier European final in Lyon on 14 May.
France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud claimed Racing’s sole try, with Johannes Goosen’s long-range penalty added to Carter’s haul proving just enough to edge the Frenchmen to the final.
Leicester wing Telusa Veainu’s try set up a frenetic finish, but Racing were deserved winners as Leicester left the comeback too late.
Racing’s heavy-duty pack won all the pivotal collisions, neutering Leicester’s strike runners Opeti Fonua and Manu Tuilagi, pictured.
Leicester spent all week fielding questions about how to stop 34-year-old Carter, but Racing had all the answers when it came to nullifying wrecking-ball centre Tuilagi.
Here was the England game-breaker’s chance to prove he is back to his best: it proved an opportunity he was never allowed to take.
Leicester’s frustrations in profligate attack and defeat were compounded by injury to stand-off Freddie Burns, who watched much of the match from the bench on crutches, wearing a protective boot on his left foot.
Joe Rokocoko made his name mixing pirouettes and power on the wing for the All Blacks, but here the 32-year-old bulldozed over the top of a ruck to set Racing en route to the opening try.
The Tigers forgot to post the ruck, and at this level such base crimes never go unpunished. Just two phases later Machenaud wriggled home, Carter converted and Leicester were chasing the game – with three minutes on the clock.
Goosen fluffed a long-range penalty as Racing continued to apply the choke-hold on messy Leicester before Carter shanked a drop-goal attempt.
Then the Tigers multiplied their mistakes, Fonua throwing an awful pass to force Tuilagi into a knock-on. Carter landed a penalty from the eventual melee, stretching Racing’s lead to 10-0.
Leicester finally troubled the scorers when Burns slotted a penalty, but the Tigers’ chief agitator would shortly hobble out of the contest. The some-time England stand-off stepped inside Carter for a dazzling half-break, and never properly recovered, departing gingerly with a leg problem.
His mini-break brought Leicester’s most dangerous first-half initiative, with Veainu retrieving Ben Youngs’ neat chip – only to be turned over in Racing’s 22.
Leicester did leave Racing’s 22 with a penalty, slotted with his first touch by Owen Williams. As the half dwindled out though, Carter banged over his second penalty, to restore Racing’s seven-point advantage.
Williams quickly slotted his second penalty after a fine Tigers scrum early in the second half but Leicester were incensed to concede a scrum penalty next, that Carter duly converted, for Racing to lead 16-9 on 50 minutes.
Racing thought they had the match sewn up when Goosen ghosted home in the centres – only for the try to be chalked off after video review.
Chris Masoe was judged to have passed forward to Machenaud off the base of the scrum, handing Leicester a sizeable reprieve. The Tigers grabbed a late try when Veainu crossed in the penultimate minute, Williams converting to cut Racing’s lead to three points – but the French side clung on.