Top 14 - Round 23 Review
Racing withstand Brive fightback
March 26, 2010

Racing Metro boosted their play-off hopes by surviving a late scare to claim a crucial 25-18 victory over Brive at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir in Colombes on Saturday afternoon.

Racing made a commanding start to the game, racking up two early penalties through Frans Steyn. Fabrice Estabanez replied for Brive but Steyn restored the home side's six-point advantage with a drop goal right on the half hour.

However, things were to turn sour for the former Springbok centre just three minutes later when he was deservedly shown a yellow card for a spear tackle on Ronnie Cooke. It was unquestionably a sin-binning offence yet Racing's skipper Lionel Nallet inexplicably decided to take issue with the referee over the penalty, resulting in his side being marched back a further ten metres. Nallet's petulance proved extremely costly because Alexis Palisson, who had been readying himself to have a crack on goal, then changed his mind and took a quick tap. The France full-back ran at the Racing defence, before cleverly spinning and then popping the ball back into the path of the supporting Uys, who bounded through to score.

Credit to Racing, though, with their goal-kicker off the field and their captain seemingly letting his frustration get the better of him, they rallied superbly and earned themselves a penalty just before the break which was promptly dispatched by former All Blacks fly-half Andrew Mehrtens.

The Parisians then took a real stranglehold on the game two minutes into the second half when Sebastien Chabal crashed over. Racing struck again on 59 minutes, Julien Saubade putting Sireli Bobo over in the right corner after an excellent exchange between Mehrtens and Johnny Leo'o in midfield.

With 17 points now between the sides, the game appeared to be up for Brive but would not give in and breathed new life into the encounter when Jamie Noon cruised over after a sweeping attack which had started inside their own half.

Palisson converted and then landed a penalty in the closing stages to bring Brive to within a converted try. They very nearly got one, too, when Palisson exploded out of his own half before passing inside to Scott Spedding, who put Cooke away down the right flank. However, the winger was swallowed up by the Racing defence as he tried to cut inside and after Brive tried to move it wide, they turned the ball over, allowing their hosts to see out the game.

Perpignan heaped more misery on struggling Stade Francais by running in a staggering seven tries during a resounding 44-23 victory over the Parisians at the Stade Aime Giral.

Jerome Porical was the star of the show, bagging two tries as well as contributing nine points with the boot. Gerrie Britz, Farid Sid, David Marty, Marius tincu and Nicolas Duran all scored one try apiece for the Catalans.

Stade were thoroughly outclassed and the scoreline would have had a far more embarrassing look to it had they not managed two tries of their own in the final quarter, through Mirco Bergamasco and James Haskell.

Remarkably, Stade were well in the game for half an hour. Indeed, it was they who had started the brighter, with fly-half Lionel Beauxis knocking over two early penalties to help his side into a six-point advantage.

However, Perpignan's response was devastating and effectively decided the game in their favour. Porical crossed for his first try on 16 minutes and Britz followed him over moments later as the hosts turned a six-point deficit into a six-point advantage.

Beauxis responded with another penalty for Stade but Perpignan had the bonus point in the bag by half-time after tries from Sid and Marty. At 24-9 down, Stade desperately needed a strong start to the second half if they were to have any chance of turning things around, but they conceded a fifth try, and a second to Porical, within 60 seconds of the restart. The fullback converted his own score and then landed a penalty after the sin-binning of Julien Arias on 54 minutes to extend Perpignan's lead to 25 points.

Bergamasco lifted Stade's beleaguered spirits when he touched down shortly after the hour but that merely riled Perpignan, who racked up two tries in the space of three minutes through Tincu and Durand. Haskell had the final say for Stade but that was scant consolation on what was another embarrassing afternoon for the men from the capital.

Perpignan now top the table on points difference from Castres who recorded an ultimately comfortable 26-10 victory over Bayonne at the Stade Pierre-Antoine.

Scrum-half Cedric Garcia kicked Bayonne into an early lead but Castres did not take long to get going and Mathieu Bonello crashed over with 11 minutes on the clock which settled the home fans' nerves. Romain Teulet added the extras before Cameron McIntyre slotted a drop goal to extend Castres' lead to seven points.

It was wiped out just before half time when Garcia converted after Nicolas Lafitte had burrowed his way over the whitewash. However, that was to be as good as it got for Bayonne as they went scoreless for the rest of the game.

Teulet edged Castres back in front with a penalty five minutes after the interval before Joe Tekori bagged the game's decisive score on 57 minutes, touching down for a try which signalled the end of Bayonne's spirited challenge. Indeed, they offered little by way of an attacking threat in the final quarter and Teulet saw Castres home with two late penalties.

Clermont Auvergne strengthened their hold on a play-off place with a predictably facile 41-3 rout of struggling Montpellier at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

Clermont ran in six tries in total, with Marius Joubert, Anthony Floch, David Zirakashvili, Brock James, Elvis Vermeulen and Benoit Cabello all dotting, while Montpellier managed nothing more than a penalty from Olivier Sarramea.

Given their contrasting fortunes thus far this season, a rout always looked likely. However, while Clermont registered their first try after just nine minutes through Joubert, they were frustrated for long periods in the first half and only managed one further score, a penalty from Brock James, as they reached the break 12-3 ahead.

Even Floch's try three minutes into the second period failed to bring Clermont to life. However, the floodgates were well and truly opened in the final quarter, with Zirakashvili, James, Vermeulen and Cabello all touching down as Montpellier capitulated.

Toulouse lie fifth in the standings after suffering a 26-10 defeat by Biarritz at the Stade d'Anoeta in San Sebastian later in the day.

Dimitri Yachvili proved the difference between the two sides, the goal-kicking scrum-half landing six penalties in total, but Damien Traille also played a significant role in the Basques' win, slotting over a drop goal before crossing for a last-minute try.

The game had started quite encouragingly for Toulouse. Yachvili and David Skrela exchanged early penalties and although the former struck again 16 minutes in to edge Biarritz back in front, Toulouse bagged the game's opening try moments later when fullback Maxime Medard blazed over.

However, Yachvili then went about kicking Toulouse into submission. The France international stroked over two quick-fire penalties just before the break and then added two more within three minutes of the restart to put Biarritz 15-10 up.

Yachvili struck again on the hour and Traille's 68th-minute drop goal effectively put the game beyond Toulouse. Indeed, the visitors offered little in the final quarter and Traille put the seal on a morale-boosting win for the Basques when he dotted with the last play of the game.

Montauban boosted their hopes of avoiding the drop after beating basement boys Albi 26-12 at the Stade Municipal.

The game was as good as over at half-time, with the visitors having racked up 16 unanswered points. Interestingly, all of those points came inside the first 15 minutes, with Cedric Rosalen slotting over penalties either side of his conversion of Brice Mach's try. Rosalen landed another penalty three minutes into the second half and was on hand to add the extras once more moments later when Adrien Figueiredo crashed over.

Montauban didn't manager another score in the remaining 35 minutes but even though Albi rallied and managed two tries of their own, through Vincent Clement and Pierre-Gilles Lafafia, the visitors held on quite comfortably to secure a crucial four points in their bid to avoid relegation.

A sterling defensive effort from Toulon helped secure a narrow 13-9 win over relegation-threatened Bourgoin at the Stade Pierre Rajon on Friday night.

Philippe Saint-Andre's play-off hopefuls secured the only try of the game through Argentina fly-half Felipe Contepomi and saw off numerous attacks from the home side in the closing moments to seal the points that keep them in the hunt for honours at the end of the season.

Former All Black skipper and current Toulon coach Tana Umaga made his playing return on the wing for Toulon after being coaxed out of retirement due to a serious hip injury suffered by wing Christian Loamanu

Two Benjamin Boyet penalties had given Bourgoin an early lead but the home side were guilty of some terrible midfield tackling to allow Contepomi an easy run to the line following some powerful play off the base of the scrum by Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. Nevertheless, Boyet slotted his third penalty moments before the break to secure a narrow half-time advantage.

Contepomi knocked over two quick-fire penalties at the start of the second-half but Toulon were forced to defend for all they were worth in the closing stages. Bourgoin hammered on the door in the final 10 minutes, sending wave after wave of attacks towards the opposition's line. Having won a penalty deep into stoppage time Bourgoin elected for a five-metre scrum only for the ball to spill forward, allowing Pierre Mignoni to hack behind and end the game.


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