Top 14 - Round 24
Toulon stay top after Clermont draw
April 14, 2013
Seru Nakaitaci scores one of his two tries for Clermont © Getty Images
Toulon retained their place at the summit of the Top 14 after battling to a 26-26 draw with second-place Clermont Auvergne at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Sunday.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked three penalties and a conversion for the hosts but missed a late long-range effort that would have clinched victory. The two sides, who both reached the Heineken Cup semi-finals last weekend, crossed for two tries each with Maxime Mermoz and Alexis Palisson touching down for the hosts while Seru Nakaitaci grabbed a brace for Clermont. Former All Black Mike Delany kicked three penalties and both conversions for the visitors while Anthony Floch added a further penalty. It leaves Toulon two points clear of Clermont at the top of the table with just three rounds of the regular season left before the play-offs.
Montpellier boosted their Top 14 play-off hopes with a narrow 10-8 victory over title rivals Toulouse at the Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday. In a low-scoring affair, Montpellier scrum-half Benoît Paillaugue gave the hosts a 3-0 lead at the break thanks to an early penalty. Toulouse fly-half Lionel Beauxis cancelled out his effort in the early stage of the second half but they were not on level terms for long with in-form winger Timoci Nagusa putting the home side in control once again with a try that was converted by Paillaugue.
Toulouse staged a late fightback with rising star Gael Fickou pouncing for a try just two minutes from time but Beauxis was not able to add the extras with the defeat denting the defending champions' hopes of booking a place in the semi-finals while the win cements Montpellier's place in the play-off picture.
On Friday night, Argentine fly-half Nicolas Sanchez scored a late penalty to earn Bordeaux-Begles a 23-23 draw away to Castres. Fourth-placed Castres led 13-10 at half-time after scoring a penalty try that Rory Kockott converted just before the whistle went for the end of the first period. It allowed them to cancel out Jefferson Poirot's 16th minute try that had given Bordeaux-Begles an early lead. After half-time flanker Yannick Caballero scored Castres second and while scrum-half Julien Seron scored a second try for Bordeaux-Begles, a Kockott penalty 12 minutes from time appeared to have given Castres the edge. That was before Sanchez held his nerve late on after Castres were penalised for not releasing the ball.
Racing Metro maintained their push for the post season with a 34-9 bonus point victory over basement side Mont-de-Marsan at the Stade Guy Boniface that lifted them into fifth place. No.8 Sakiusa Matadigo opened the scoring but winger Virimi Vakatawa was the star of the show with a hat-trick of tries with fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski weighing in with 14 points with the boot.
Stade Francais added a little gloss to their campaign with a 28-20 victory over strugglers Agen at the Stade Armandie. A try in either half from centre Felipe Contepomi proved crucial with another from replacement Lei Tomiki just enough to hold off Agen who crossed for two late scores through winger Romain Edmond Samuel and lock Esteban Lozada following yellow cards for Stade's Djibril Camara and Francis Fainifo.
In another basement battle, Bayonne edged out Grenoble 31-24 in a seven-try thriller at the Stade Jean Dauger. First half tries from wingers Sam Gerber and Marvin O'Connor (2) put the home side in control but back came Grenoble with scores from scrum-half Jonathan Pelissié and centre Aloisio Butonidualevu. However, a try from Bayonne scrum-half Mike Phillips halted their comeback although Grenoble did have the final say through winger Lucas Dupont.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Wales international James Hook scored 23 points to help Perpignan beat Biarritz 33-28 in their mid-table clash at the Stade Aime Giral. Hook scored a try and landed four penalties and three conversions in the victory that was sealed by Lifeimi Mafi's try.
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