Top 14 - Round 14 Review
Castres open up daylight at top
November 27, 2009
Jonny Wilkinson kicked 17 points for Toulon © Getty Images
Castres kept alive their charge at the top of the table by thrashing Biarritz 34-6 at the Stade Pierre Antoine.
The Top 14's surprise package are now five points clear of Perpignan after the reigning champions' away game with Bayonne was postponed due to an outbreak of swine flu in the visitors' camp.
A try on the stroke of half-time from wing Mathieu Nicolas and 14 points from the boot of fullback Romain Teulet gave Castres a heavy 19-6 advantage at the break and they pressed on following the resumption.
Biarritz scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili kicked all of their points but was sin-binned ten minutes in to the second-half, by which time his side had fallen further behind to a try from centre Yohan Audrin. Ibrahim Diarra wrapped up the points with Castres' third try on the hour.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked 17 points on his return to domestic action to help Toulon to a 22-18 victory over Stade Francais at the Stade Jean Bouin.
Toulon welcomed Wilkinson back from a mixed autumn on England duty and the fly-half was immediately pitted against a familiar face as James Haskell also returned to the Stade back-row.
It was another Englishman who broke the deadlock in only the second minute as Sevens international Ollie Phillips darted in for a try. Noel Oelschig missed the conversion and Wilkinson narrowed the gap with a seventh minute penalty.
Oelshchig was on target with a penalty to extend the home side's lead and also chipped in with a drop-goal before bulldozing wing Christian Loamanu popped up for Toulon's only try.
Wilkinson brought his side to within two with a drop goal before Stade's controversial centre Mathieu Bastareaud extended their lead with a try after 10 minutes of the second-half.
Wilkinson again ate in to the lead with a penalty and his third effort from the kicking tee gave Toulon a single point advantage heading in to the final quarter. Stade pressed for a score but it was Wilkinson's fourth penalty that proved decisive.
Nine points from the boot of former All Black fly-half Andrew Mehrtens were enough for Racing Metro to defeat Albi 9-6 at the Stade Yves du Manoir.
The sides were locked together until the 66th minute thanks to Albi's Blair Stewart, but Mehrtens popped up with the winning effort to end any hopes the visitors had of a second scalp in as many weeks following their shock win over Perpignan.
Perpignan's visit to face Bayonne was been postponed after it was confirmed that three of their players had contracted swine flu. The game will now be rescheduled. Perpignan are the second French club to be affected by the virus after Castres were forced to postpone two fixtures earlier in the season.
Toulouse bounced back from the disappointment of last weekend's defeat at Castres by edging out Montauban 17-12 at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday afternoon.
Montauban actually outscored their hosts by two tries to one, and their first touchdown arrived 23 minutes into the first half, with Leonard Oliver crossing underneath posts after being superbly set up by his half-back partner Mathieu Belie. However, Toulouse only trailed by a point at the break thanks to two penalties from the boot of France fly-half Frederic Michalak.
Montauban, though, silenced the home crowd with a second try just two minutes into the second half, Julien Laharrague touching down after bursting through three would-be tacklers.
Toulouse responded superbly to the score, though, engineering a score for Remy Lamerat, who crossed after some excellent work from the forwards. Michalak failed to convert but he put Toulouse in front with a penalty on the hour before 20-year-old Nicolas Bezy sealed victory for Guy Noves' men with another three-pointer five minutes later.
Brive, meanwhile, pulled further clear of the drop zone with a comprehensive 25-3 victory over Montpellier at the Stade Yves du Manoir.
Alexis Palisson accounted for the only points of a dull but hard-fought opening half, the fullback touching down just seconds before the break after being set up by Nicolas Jeanjean, who had been expertly picked out with a measured kick from fly-half Fabrice Estebanez.
Palisson extended Brive's advantage with two second-half penalties and although Olivier Sarramea got Montpellier off the mark with a 63rd-minute strike, Vili Waqaseduadua effectively sealed victory for the visitors when he raced through to score in the 70th minute pass after scooping up a loose pass in midfield.
Further gloss was added to the scoreline when Palisson intercepted a stray pass from Benjamin Thiery to claim his second try of the game in the dying seconds of the game.