All Black great Dan Carter has made a dream start to his Racing 92 career, thriving off a dominant pack to help the Parisian club to a bonus-point 33-3 victory over Northampton to go top of European Cup pool 3.
Carter kicked three conversions on Saturday 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.
“We’re really happy with that performance,” said Phillips.
“Dan’s been great all week, he’s obviously world class and will get better and better each training session, each game, so it’s great for the squad.
“He’s certainly a quick learner, today was as if he’s been here for a long time.”
Phillips jokingly added that Carter’s heavily-strapped right knee was nothing to worry about.
“It’s the money he’s on, it’s weighing him down on one side,” he said of the 33-year-old world record Test points scorer.
“He’s alright, he’s been around and he’s getting on.”
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 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-eighth Jules Plisson in the Six Nations.
But Carter gracefully stepped out of the giant hitman’s way.
The Saints then suffered a disaster just before halftime when Victor Matfield popped up in the centre with the line beckoning.
His telegraphed pass was picked off by Racing’s France international fullback Brice Dulin, who raced away for a third try converted by Carter.
Irish referee George Clancy then controversially disallowed Northampton centre Luther Burrell a try as a breakdown in communication rendered redundant the television match official.
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.
Carter’s conversion came back off the crossbar.
He 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.