Top 14 Orange
Toulouse cement top spot
ESPNscrum Staff
March 9, 2012
Toulouse's Florian Fritz, Toulouse v Lyon, Top 14 Orange, Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse, France, January 7, 2012
Florian Fritz grabbed one of Toulouse's four tries against Castres © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: Top 14 Orange

Toulouse strengthened their grip at the Top 14 summit with a 34-27 victory over title rivals Castres at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday.

Castres looked on course for a notable league double over the hosts after tries from prop Karena Wihongi and winger Romain Martial propelled them into a 14-0 lead after just 15 minutes but Toulouse clawed their way back into the contest with winger Yves Donguy touching down just before the break. They carried that momentum into the second half with a try from prop Cencus Johnston four minutes after the re-start turning giving his side the lead.

But the game would turn again less than five minutes later with flanker Yannick Caballero crossing for Castres and the boot of Pierre Bernard stretched their lead to 10 points. Back came Toulouse with centre Florian Fritz notching a try and he was followed over the whitewash by replacement Gillian Galan a few moments later. Fly-half Luke McAlister, who finished the game with 12 points, set the seal on the win with his fourth conversion.

Clermont Auvergne remain on their tail following a 29-20 victory over Agen at the Stade Armandie. Fly-half Brock James kicked them into a narrow 12-11 half-time lead after centre Junior Pelesasa had crossed for the opening try of the game for the hosts. Agen playmaker Conrad Barnard edged his side ahead in the second half only for tries from winger Brent Russell and hooker Benjamin Kayser power the visitors to a vital away win.

Montpellier kept their play-off chances alive with a 37-26 victory Bayonne at the Stade Yves Du Manoir. The home side took control of the contest in the first half thanks largely to three penalties from Martin Bustos Moyano and a try courtesy of winger Timoci Nagusa. A second half try from flanker Remy Martin stretched their lead but they could not kill off their rivals with fly-half Benjamin Boyet and fullback Yoann Huget both notching tries within a five minute period. But a second score for Nagusa in the final 10 minutes put the result beyond doubt.

A late Karim Ghezal try helped Racing Metro towards valuable 22-13 win over Begles-Bordeaux on Friday evening in Paris. Racing Metro were shocked in the opening exchanges of the match when former Northampton Saints fullback Bruce Reihana went over for the Top 14 strugglers to give the away side a 5-0 lead. Fly-half Camille Lopez added the extras but Gaetan Germain put three points on the board prior to half-time to make it 3-7 at the break.

Germain chipped over three penalties in the early stage of the second-half to give Metro a five point lead but two penalties from Lopez put the away side in front by a solitary point with ten minutes left. But despite Bordeaux's best efforts, they failed to close out the match with a penalty from Germain and Ghezal's crashing effort enough to deny them the all-important losing bonus point.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Stade Francais proved too good for basement side Lyon with fullback Djibril Camara grabbing two tries in a 40-19 victory at the Stade Charlety. And Biarritz added a bit more gloss to their season with a 26-11 success against fellow strugglers Brive with scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili weighing in with a 16-point haul.

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