Top 14 trio Clermont, Castres and Toulouse all benefited as Toulon failed to score at Stade Francais on Saturday.
The first 40 at Stade Jean Bouin was a dismal affair. Stade upped the ante in the second period, scoring 20 of their 23 unanswered points in the game. Jules Plisson and Geoffrey Doumayrou – on the brink of full-time – touched down, while Julian Dupuy and late replacement Morne Steyn knocked up 13 points with the boot between them. It wasn’t until Matt Giteau came on after 60 minutes to replace an out-of-sorts Freddie Michalak that Toulon showed much in the way of attacking edge. By then, Stade were 16-0 up and it was too late.
On Friday night, Clermont had moved into top spot with a thoroughly entertaining 23-30 victory over Perpignan at Stade Aime Giral. The hosts made the most of two yellow cards in the Clermont pack to win a penalty try late in the first half and cancel out an earlier score from inside centre Noa Nakaitaci. Thierry Lacrampe and Soufiane Guitoune then traded tries in the second period, before a combination of Julien Malzieu and replacement Brock James allowed the visitors to pull away in the final 10 minutes.
Castres, who hit the headlines this week with their reported surprise signing of veteran winger Sitiveni Sivivatu from Clermont, moved into third courtesy of a 46-16 six-try demolition of Bayonne at Stade Pierre Antoine. The hosts played with flair and ambition from the outset, but there was no indication at halftime, when the score was 13-6, of what was to come. Romain Cabannes crossed in the first period before the floodgates opened in the second, with Daniel Kirkpatrick, Brice Dulin, Marc Antoine Rallier, Ibrahim Diarra and Romain Martial all touching down. There was even time for Joe Rokocoko to score for a consolation try for the visitors.
Despite losing to Grenoble, Toulouse are second in the table, level on 36 points with Castres and just four behind Clermont, courtesy of a defensive bonus. Feisty Irish scrum-half James Hart kicked 20 of Grenoble’s 25 points and kept them in touch with the visitors until Julien Caminiti’s decisive try just after an hour. Earlier, Hosea Gear and Maxime Medard had both scored early in the second period, as Toulouse briefly threatened to get away. Gear, in particular, will rue an embarrassing first-half knock-on in Grenoble’s in-goal area when all he had to do was touch down.
Oyonnax remain 13th and in danger of relegation, but moved level on points with 12th-placed Bayonne thanks to a 26-9 win over Brive, who will be nervously looking over their shoulder, as they are just three points out of danger in 11th. Benjamin Urdipilleta was Brive’s tormentor in chief. He kicked seven penalties, while Silvere Tian touched down midway through the second half. Gaetan Germain kicked two penalties and Riaan Swanipoel a drop goal in reply for the visitors.
Fabien Galthie’s Montpellier lost 17-12 at Racing’s Stade Yves du Manoir. Benjamin Fall’s 55th-minute try was the difference between the two sides, as Julien Pellisié and Francois Trinh-Duc cancelled out the four penalties of Maxime Marchenaud.
After beating Racing Metro at home and Brive away either side of French rugby’s two-week break for the November internationals, Biarritz came back down to earth with a 15-22 thump against Bordeaux at Parc des Sports Aguilera on Saturday. They led 15-3 two minutes after halftime, thanks to tries from Dimitri Yachvili and American Eagle Takudzwa Ngwenya. But they gave up three tries in 18 minutes as Laurence Deloub, Metuisela Talebulamaijaina and Julien Rey crossed for the visitors.
By James Harrington (@blackmountained)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images