Top 14 Orange
Toulouse put Montpellier to the sword
ESPNscrum Staff
December 23, 2011

Toulouse underlined their status as the dominant force in the Top 14 with a resounding 45-25 victory over Montpellier at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir on Friday night.

The league leaders hit the ground running at the home of the side they defeated in last year's play-off final, with Maximed Medard crossing with just six minutes on the clock.

Montpellier responded with a penalty from Martin Bustos Moyano but Lionel Beauxis then went straight down the other end and dropped a goal before then slotting over a penalty and another drop goal while Mamuka Gorgodze and Vincent Clerc were both in the bin.

Montpellier picked up their second yellow card on 25 minutes when lock Thibault Privat saw yellow and Toulouse pulled further clear when Luke Burgess dived over on the half hour. Beauxis slotted the extras and then exchanged penalties with Bustos Moyano at the tail end of the half as Toulouse reached the interval 20 points clear.

Beauxis landed his third drop goal of the game two minutes into the second period but Montpellier refused to give in and replacement hooker Erasmus Van Vuuren helped himself to a brace of tries as the hosts tried desperately to remain on touch.

However, Toulouse, for whom Beauxis kept the scoreboard ticking over throughout the second half, racked up their third try through Louis Picamoles on 80 minutes, meaning Yoan Audrin's last-gasp try was nothing more than a consolation score for Montpellier.

Clermont Auvergne moved to the summit of the Top 14, for the time being at least, with a hard-fought 9-6 victory over Brive at the the Stade Amedee-Domenech on Friday night.

Brock James kicked Clermont Auvergne into an early 6-0 lead but Mathieu Belie halved Brive's arrears with a penalty of his own at the end of the first quarter and that was the way the scoreline stayed until the break.

The home side then lost lock Arnaud Mela to a yellow card 12 minutes into the second period and James nailed the resulting penalty to restore Clermon's six-point advantage.

Brive replacement back Julien Caminati set up a frantic finale when he stroked over a penalty with five minutes to go but Clermont held on to claim a precious away win.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked five penalties as Toulon strengthened their grip on third place in the table with a 20-15 victory over Lyon at the Stade Felix-Mayol.

The former England fly-half struck three times during the opening period, with fullback Romain Loursac on target twice for the visitors, who did well to reach the interval just three points adrift given they had had prop Philemon Tolefoa sent to the sin bin on the half-hour mark.

Loursac levelled matters just over 60 seconds into the second half but Toulon winger Alexis Palisson then cruised over on 47 minutes for the only try of the game shortly after Lyon's Alipate Fatafehi had been shown a yellow card.

Wilkinson failed to convert Palisson's score but he responded every time Loursac drew Lyon to within striking distance and Toulon eked out a crucial victory.

Castres lost ground on the leaders after they could only manage a 16-16 draw with Bayonne at the Stade Jean Dauger.

Fourth-placed Castres made a fine start, with Romain Teulet knocking over a penalty shortly after kick-off before winger Romain Martial dotted on 14 minutes.

Bayonne hit back with a brace of penalties from Benjamin Boyet but Teulet landed another kick on goal right on the stroke of half-time to send the visitors in 13-6 up at the break.

However, Boyet levelled matters when he converted lock Abedellatif Boutaty's 57th-minute try before then edging Bayonne ahead with a penalty just after the hour. Bayonne pressed, though, in the final quarter and Teulet kicked his third penalty of the evening to earn his side a share of the spoils.

Stade Francais maintained their push for a play-off place with a 23-10 victory over Biarritz at the Stade Charlety.

Julien Dupuy kicked two early penalties for the Parisians, who then moved further ahead when lock Pascal Pape flopped over on 18 minutes. Dupuy converted and then split the sticks with another strike on goal as Michael Cheika's men went in 16-0 up at the break.

Biarritz finally got off the mark with a Julien Peyrelongue penalty just seconds after the restart and the Basques got themselves right back into the game when replacement prop Eugene van Staden crashed over on 56 minutes, shortly after Stade No.8 Sergio Parisse had been sin-binned. However, once Parisse had returned to the fray, Biarritz never looked like turning the game around and left the French capital empty-handed.

Racing Metro remain on the fringe of the play-off places courtesy of a straightforward 26-8 victory over Agen at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir.

Jonathan Wisniewski enjoyed himself in the opening period, landing a penalty 11 minutes in before then slotting over a drop goal. Then, after Agen flanker Antoine Erbani had been yellow carded, the home side's fly-half kicked two quick-fire penalties before lock Lionel Nallet registered the opening try of the game on 27 minutes.

Valentin Courrent belatedly got Agen up and running with a penalty five minutes before the break but the visitors then criminally failed to post a single score while their hosts were down to 14 men following the sin-binning of centre Virimi Vakatawa.

Racing finally killed the game off as a meaningful contest when replacement prop Andrea Lo Circero wormed his way over the whitewash with 13 minutes to go for a try which was converted by Wisniewski. However, Agen did rack up a consolation try through Belisario Agulla with the last play of the game.

Perpignan pulled themselves away from the relegation zone by picking up a bonus point during a welcome 38-13 victory over Bordeaux Begles at the Stade Aime Giral.

Remarkably, Bordeaux had two players yellow carded during the first period, fullback Bruce Reihana and winger Blair Connor, and yet still reached the interval 13-6 up at the break before completely capitulating in the second half.

Gerard Fraser opened the scoring for Clermont nine minutes in but then Reihana was sent to the sin bin and James Hook levelled matters with the resulting penalty attempt.

Fraser reclaimed the lead for the visitors almost immediately only to see Hook restore parity once more on 33 minutes, just seconds before Connor saw yellow. Opportunity knocked for Perpignan but Bordeaux stunned their hosts when scrum-half Heini Adams crossed for a converted try just before the interval.

However, David Marty touched down for the Catalans three minutes into the second half and they added two more tries before the end of the third quarter through Rudi Coetzee and Joffrey Michel as they turned a seven-point half-time deficit into a 15-point lead.

Perpignan then secured a bonus point through centre Maxime Mermoz, who crossed with just seven minutes remaining. Hook converted and then added a penalty just before the full-time whistle as the Welsh fly-half ended with a personal haul of 18 points.

More to follow.......

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