Top 14
Toulon pounce as Clermont slip up
April 3, 2010

Clermont failed to put any pressure on Perpignan and Castres ahead of their clash as they slumped to a 19-10 defeat away to Stade Francais.

Michael Cheika was in the Stade de France to watch the side his Leinster team will face next Friday in the Heineken Cup quarter-final, while no doubt checking out the city he'll call home next season when he takes over at the Paris club. And his future charges came out on top after a limp second-half display from Clermont.

Indeed, neither side scored as heavy rain came down in the second period, with the nine point lead Stade had taken into the interval enough for Stade. It was a disappointing finish for a game that had threatened a lot when prop Thomas Domingo crossed for a Clermont try after just four minutes, converted by Morgan Parra.

But France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski replied with the first of his two tries five minutes later, with Lionel Beauxis converting. Mark Gasnier added a second try after 17 minutes, with Beauxis again adding the extras, and although Parra notched a penalty, Szarzewski got over again for what proved to be the winning try.

Clermont seemed to have an eye on next week's European action in a distracted display, but Stade were more than happy to take advantage with a crucial win.

Toulon's took advantage to leapfrog Clermont after they claimed a 31-13 bonus point win over Bayonne at Stade Felix-Mayol that put them provisionally top ahead of the clash of the top two and assured them of a plac ein the play-offs.

The home side produced a strong first-half to lead 26-6 at the break. Jonny Wilkinson kicked two penalties before Gabirieli Lovobalavu touched down after Juan Fernandez Lobbe collected his own chip, fed Joe van Niekerk who fed the winger to score.

Hooker Sebastien Bruno scored from a maul after 23 minutes with Remi Martin in the bin for playing the ball on the ground, with Lovobalavu scoring his second from a Pierre Mignoni break before the interval.

But Bayonne started the second-half well with ill-discipline seeing two Toulon players, Davit Kubriashvili and Tana Umaga receive yellow cards in succession as the Basques scored their first try through No.8 Dwayne Haare six minutes into the half, but replacement Fabien Cibray crossed for the bonus with 15 minutes remaining.

Montauban's off-field troubles were compounded as they crashed to a 42-13 defeat to a rampant Biarritz at Stade Aguilera. It was all one way traffic as the Basques ran riot to boost their outside chance of a play-off spot against a Montauban side who were reduced to 14 men with Romain Sazy seeing red in the first-half.

Already facing relegation unless they can rectify financial irregularities, the defeat means Montauban slip behind Montpellier having conceded five first-half tries. Biarritz were rampant and at one point the visitor's ill-discipline saw 14 play 12 with Sazy dismissed and being joined by teammate Gregory Arganese and Biarritz prop Eduard Coetzee all being binned in the same incident with Scott Murray already off with a yellow.

American winger Takudzwa Ngwenya crossed for 16th and 24th minute tries, before Damien Traille, Karmichael Hunt and Florian Faure touched down for tries with Dimitri Yachvilli converting all five to make the half-time score 35-3.

The hosts took their foot off the pedal in the second-half, allowing replacements Mirko Lozupone and Felix Le Bourhis cross for consolation tries before Julien Peyrelongue finished the rout for Biarritz.

Brive squeezed past Bourgoin thanks to a penalty try with ten minutes remaining, converted by Fabrice Estebanez proved the crucial score as the hosts ran out 25-15 win. The penalty try came after five consecutive scrums on the Bourgoin line and was enough to see the hosts over the line.

The win moves the mid-table Brive away from any threat from below after they led 18-12 at the break after a tight opening half. Tries from blindside flanker Gerhard Vosloo and winger Ronnie Cooke and kicks from Alexis Palisson put them 18-9 in front after Benjamin Boyet kept Bourgoin in touch.

He drew them back within three points with two more penalties, but Brive's pressure told and they picked up a crucial win.

Montpellier's 62-15 win over relegated Albi sees them go from second from bottom to tenth.

The strugglers picked up a crucial bonus point after running in nine tries in a dominant performance over the hapless visitors. Benjamin Thiery set the tone with a try in the opening minute after good work from scrum-half Adrien Thomas.

Thiery's fellow winger Thierry Brana doubled the lead to 10-0 after five minutes, while tries from Mamuka Gorgodze and Argentine fullback Federico Todeschini who also kicked two conversion to give his side a 27-0 lead.

Substitute Saula Radidi pulled a try back for the visitors, but tries from Gorgordze, a Francois Trinh-Duc double, Sebastien Petit and Jean-Matthieu Alcalde kept Montpellier on course for a big win.

Toulouse kept up their march to the Top 14 play-offs by defeating top-six rivals Racing Metro 28-23 at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Friday night.

Toulouse were almost made to pay for Yannick Jauzion's second-half sin-binning, with former Springbok Jacques Cronje pouncing for a try and Racing pivot Andrew Mehrtens landing a penalty to close the gap created by tries from Clement Poitrenaud and Younn Maestri, but Toulouse showed their grit and pounced through veteran flanker Jean Bouilhou to seal victory.

Mehrtens had struck a drop-goal in the opening minute but Toulouse were also quick out of the blocks and scored the opening try through fullback Poitrenaud after only three minutes. David Skrela converted and slotted a 10th minute penalty while Mehrtens chipped in twice from the tee to leave a point in it at the break. Toulouse started the brightest after the restart and were rewarded with lock Maestri bustling over but Jauzion's indiscretion allowed Racing to close the gap.

Skrela pocketed a further three points before Bouilhou notched the decisive score, with Mehrtens' late penalty securing only a losing bonus-point.


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