Finn Russell wasted no time in impressing his new employers with a virtuoso performance in his competitive debut for Racing 92.
The Parisian outfit faced a tricky assignment away to Toulon in the opening round of Top 14 fixtures. But, with the Scotland stand-off weighing in with a 20-point contribution, it proved to be a successful trip as Racing secured a 25-9 victory at Stade Mayol on Saturday evening.
Despite having 69 per cent of the possession in the opening 40 minutes, Racing trailed 6-3 at the interval, with Russell booting one penalty and missing with a second effort.
Seven minutes after the restart, the Scot opened his try-scoring account for the club he joined from Glasgow Warriors in the summer when he darted through a gap in the Toulon defence, which was short-handed after Malakai Fekitoa was yellow carded.
After dotting down between the posts, the 25-year-old, who missed the Scotland tour in the summer to link up with his new colleagues at a pre-season training camp in Georgia, then added the conversion. And just two minutes later he bagged his second try of the match although on this occasion he was off target with the conversion attempt.
Russell continued to dominate the show when he intercepted inside his own half just before the hour and broke away. However, this time he passed the ball wide and the hosts managed to win a penalty at the breakdown.
A third penalty for the home side by Louis Carbonel took the score to 15-9 in Racing’s favour entering the final quarter of the game. But the visitors ensured a repeat of last season’s win away to Toulon when winger Juan Imhoff intercepted and sprinted over from 60 metres. Russell added the extras then took his personal tally to 20 points when he banged over a late penalty to add gloss to the scoreline.
Despite the comprehensive nature of the win, Racing coach Laurent Labit was quick to quell any suggestions that Racing could be ready to mount a title challenge this season, with the next item on the agenda being a home clash with Clermont Auvergne.
“We have to keep our feet on the ground because Toulon are not yet at full strength”, he warned. “We could be brought back down to earth next week if we think that we have achieved anything. Last year we also won at Toulon but the season ended in tears.”