Masoe latest Kiwi villain as champions Racing lose

Barnaby CHESTERMAN
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Racing's winger Juan Imhoff (C) runs with the ball during the French Top 14 rugby union match against Grenoble March 4, 2017

New Zealander Chris Masoe compounded Racing 92's blues by getting sent off just six minutes into Saturday's 19-10 Top 14 defeat at Grenoble.

Racing's New Zealand contingent has been a public relations nightmare for the Parisians this season.

All Black great Dan Carter was stopped for drink-driving last month whilst he, fellow New Zealand international star Joe Rokocoko and Argentina wing Juan Imhoff are being investigated by the French Anti-Doping Agency over the use of corticosteroids in last year's Top 14 final, despite already being cleared of wrongdoing by the French Rugby Federation's medical commission.

And just last week former All Black lock Ali Williams was arrested for buying cocaine.

Racing's problems piled up when Samoan-born Masoe was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Grenoble hooker Arnaud Heguy.

Racing battled gamely but three penalties from their former fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski gave Grenoble a 9-3 half-time lead -- Irish scrum-half James Hart kicking the visitors' points.

Things got worse 13 minutes into the second period when fly-half Benjamin Dambielle was sin-binned for holding back Wisniewski, with Grenoble punishing the 13 men of Racing almost immediately with a try from wing Lucas Dupont.

Racing were offered a lifeline when Wisniweski was sent to the bin 15 minutes from the end but failed to score during 10 minutes of numerical parity.

France international wing Teddy Thomas did get a try after the final buzzer but by then the game was lost.

Racing coach Laurent Labit was full of praise for his side, though, despite losing ground in the battle for a top six finish.

"After finding ourselves down to 14 it was very difficult," he said. "But tonight I'm very proud of what my players showed."

- Toulon beaten -

Three-time European champions Toulon slumped to a 15-5 loss at Brive despite Bryan Habana scoring the only try of the game six minutes from time and while teammate Ma'a Nonu was in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle.

For Brive, Thomas Laranjeira kicked a perfect four penalties from four attempts after replacing Gaetan Germain who was injured having put his team ahead on 20 minutes.

Castres kept up their impressive home form to move into third with a 26-16 victory over leaders Clermont.

The win was Castres' seventh in the last nine Top 14 matches, and they remain unbeaten at home since September.

"What changed the game in our favour was the coaching," boasted Castres coach Christophe Urios.

"However, I'm not happy at all with our first half. We lacked physical commitment. I expected more and I believe we're capable of better."

Stephen Brett and Rory Kockott traded early penalties before Clermont's Fijian No.8 Peceli Yato was yellow carded for a high tackle on David Smith.

Making the most of their numerical superiority, Castres' South African hooker Jody Jenneker was driven over for a well-deserved try in the 33rd minute.

South African-born France international Kockott converted, but Clermont hit back through English full-back Nick Abendanon.

Winger David Strettle, also once an England back, cut through close to the line, the ball was recycled quickly and Abendanon found himself with a stretched defence for a try New Zealander Brett converted to leave it 10-10 at half-time.

Brett traded two more penalties with Kockott and his Argentinian replacement Benjamin Urdapilleta before flanker Anthony Jelonch bounced Yato aside to cross for Castres' second try.

In a few decisive minutes, Urdapilleta was on target with the conversion and then snatched a drop goal.

New Zealand internationals Colin Slade (five) and Tom Taylor (15) kicked 20 points between them as Pau claimed a 25-25 draw at rock-bottom Bayonne.