France Top 14
Stade keep pace with Toulouse
November 30, 2008

With only six points separating the four teams at the head of the Top 14 table after Round 12, things could not be any tighter in the French league.

After Toulouse comfortably beat Bayonne 32-11 on Friday night, the pressure was on Stade Francais to keep pace on Saturday ahead of their match at Biarritz. Despite falling behind to a 13th-minute try for American wing Takudzwa Ngwenya, the Parisians did all that was asked of them, running in five tries of their own.

Juan Manuel Leguizamon scored the visitors' first try, and though a penalty apiece left the scores at 10-10 at the break Stade turned on the style in the second half. Julien Saubade and Mathieu Bastareaud eased them clear and Mauro Bergamasco's late brace earned a bonus point.

The win brought Stade to within sight of the top of the table, lying only three points behind Toulouse, while Biarritz now lie six from the bottom thanks to their fourth defeat in succession.

Reigning champions Toulouse were in control throughout their Friday night clash against high-flying Bayonne at the Stade Ernest Wallon. Clement Poitreneaud, Byron Kelleher and Virgile Lacombe all scored tries while Freddie Michalak put in an assured performance with the boot, kicking five penalties.

Just behind the leading two are Perpignan, who moved above Bayonne into third place thanks to a 9-6 victory at Montauban. The Stade Sapiac has been a fortress this season - only Toulouse had previously won there - but three David Mele penalties proved to be enough for the Catalan outfit. Fabian Fortissin and Cedric Rosalen kicked Montauban's points, but Mele won the day with a 78th-minute penalty.

The result of the round came at the Stade Guy Boniface, where basement club Mont de Marsan prevailed over 5th-placed Clermont Auvergne 12-11. All 23 points came in the first half. Although Brent Russell scored the game's only try a minute into the second quarter and Seremaia Bai kicked two penalties, four Mont de Marsan successful shots at goal - three from Yannick Lafforgue and another from Damien Cler - were enough to take the points.

Brive dominated proceedings at the Stade Yves du Manoir, beating Montpellier 22-9. Régis Bianco scored a try and England fly half Andy Goode kicked 17 points. Irishman Mark McHugh kicked all of Montpellier's points, but Brive did not relinquish their control to move up to sixth in the table.

Bourgoin climbed out of the relegation zone with a 23-9 win at Castres. Romain Teulet's three first-half penalties gave Castres a 9-6 lead at the break. But David Janin's two tries helped Bourgoin take the game by the scruff of the neck. Benjamin Boyet's penalty and two conversions added to his first-half penalty and drop-goal to give the visitors a crucial victory.

Toulon's season went from bad to worse as they lost 13-6 at home to Dax. A pair of Tusi Pisi penalties gave the Stade Mayol faithful hope, but Gavin Williams' try and Antoine Vignau-Tuquet's conversion gave the visitors a half-time lead. Vignau-Tuquet then kicked two second-half penalties to ease Dax clear and hand Toulon their seventh defeat in their last eight matches.


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