Top 14 - Round 7 Review
Clermont cement top spot
September 20, 2009

Clermont Auvergne consolidated their place at the summit of the Top 14 with a 40-8 victory over Albi at the Stade Municipal on Saturday.

Albi, fresh from running Toulouse close last weekend, were shaken in to life early on when Clermont's South African hooker Willie Wepener crossed for the opening try. Any hope the basement side had of grinding the visitors down was soon swiftly ended by the returning Julien Malzieu, celebrating his recall with Clermont's second.

Fly-half Blair Stewart pulled a penalty back for the home side just before the half-hour mark, but his effort was cancelled out almost immediately by a try from Clermont openside Julien Bardy. It took last season's beaten finalists eight minutes of the second-half to wrap up a bonus-point, France No.8 Julien Bonnaire the man to profit.

Albi picked up their first try through replacement centre Benjamin Lapeyre, but rarely does a game pass without Napolioni Nalaga making an impact. Clermont's wing chose the closing stages to intervene this week, scoring the fifth try.

South African Brent Russell chimed in with their sixth in the dying seconds, adding to his earlier score against Toulouse and wrapping up a comfortable victory.

Perpignan kept the pressure on the leaders with a 28-9 victory over Montauban at the Stade Aime Giral.

A try from South African flanker Gerrie Britz and 11 points from the boot of fly-half Nicolas Laharrague helped the hosts to a 16-6 half-time lead although a penalty apiece for No.10 Regis Lespinas and replacement scrum-half Julien Audy kept Montauban in touch.

Another successful kick from Audy reduced the arrears shortly after the re-start but Perpignan turned the screw with further tries from scrum-half Nicolas Durand and winger Farid Sid and they were also able to weather a yellow card for centre Jean-Philippe Grandclaude.

Stades Francais' recovery under new coaches Jacques Delmas and Didier Faugeron continued with a 20-6 over Bourgoin, who were themselves on a high after picking up the scalp of champions Perpignan last weekend.

Alberto di Bernardo gave the away side the lead with an early drop-goal, but Stade's Italian international wing Mirco Bergamasco was on hand to score the opening try almost immediately after. South African fly-half Noel Oelschig missed the conversion but slotted a later first-half penalty for an 8-3 lead.

Bourgoin's hope of an early reply after the break was thwarted by Stade's wing Julien Arias, the French international taking just one minute of the second-half to extend his side's lead. Nevertheless, with Oelschig missing the conversion, di Bernardo's second penalty drew Bourgoin back to within a score.

So it stayed until the 72nd minute, when controversial centre Mathieu Bastareaud popped up with Stade's third try to seal the points.

In Saturday's other game, Biarritz edged out Brive 15-12 at the Stade Amedee-Domenech. Three penalties from Brive fly-half Luciano Orquera gave his side a narrow 9-6 half-time lead having weathered the sin-binning of fullback Fabrice Estebanez

Two penalties from the boot of Biarritz No.10 Valentin Courrent kept his side in touch but they finished the opening period with just 13-men after props Mosese Moala and Eduard Coetzee were also yellow-carded.

Another penalty from Courrent saw the visitors pull level after the break before Brive winger Viliame Waqaseduadua edged his side ahead once more with a drop goal. Courrent kicked his fourth penalty soon after and a drop goal just past the hour mark was to be the match-winning score.

On Sunday, Castres notched a narrow 9-6 victory over Racing Metro at Stade Pierre-Antoine. Three penalties from the boot of fullback Romain Teulet were enough to carry his side to their fourth victory of the season with New Zealander Andrew Mehrtens slotting two penalties for the visitors.

And in the final game of the weekend, Bayonne notched an emphatic 26-3 victory over Montpellier at Stade Jean Dauger. A first-half try from Benjamin Fall and a second after the break from Ace Tiatia along with the combined kicking exploits of Benat Arrayet and Cedric Garcia carried the hosts to only their third win of the season.


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