Bayonne win, Bordeaux stun Clermont
March 1, 2014
Neemia Tialata and Scott Spedding celebrate Bayonne's last-gasp win © Getty Images
Matthieu Ugalde nailed a drop goal in the dying embers as Bayonne eased their relegation fears with an 11-8 win over Biarritz, all but condemning their opponents to the drop.
Ugalde had come on as a late second half replacement and kept his composure after Bayonne moved the ball to him following patient work through the phases. Bayonne had scored the first try of the game through Joe Rokocoko, who was set up after a brilliant Marvin O'Connor break into Biarritz's 22.
Bayonne were 8-0 up but they allowed their opponents a way back into the game, even though Biarritz soon lost Seremaia Burotu to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Rokocoko. But, despite a try from Takudza Ngwenya, Biarritz fell short - moving Bayonne eight points clear of Oyonnax, though they have played two more games.
Toulon's Mathieu Bastareaud trundles over for his try © Getty Images
Toulon took full advantage of Clermont's slip up at Bordeaux to go top of the table with a crushing 64-10 victory over Oyonnax, their fourth win on the bounce.
Jonny Wilkinson scored a rare try and recorded a personal tally of 24 points as the European champions ran in nine tries against Oyonnax, who had Jody Daniel Jenneker red-carded just before half-time. But even before the visitors went down to 14 men, Toulon were in complete control - leading 31-3 through tries from Maxime Mermoz, Wilkinson, Drew Mitchell and Rudi Wulf.
The rout continued in the second half, as Mitchell grabbed his second of the day while Matt Giteau, David Smith, Benjamin Noirot and Mathieu Bastareaud all crossed in clinical fashion. It marks a remarkable turnaround for Toulon, who were outside the top six play-off picture at the end of January after a 23-10 defeat to Brive.
Metuiselau Talebula scored a pair of tries as Bordeaux stunned Clermont with a 26-16 win.
Bordeaux had not beaten Clermont since returning to the top tier in 2011 but prevailed in emphatic circumstances, giving themselves an excellent chance of making the end of season play-offs as they rose to seventh. Clermont were weakened by a host of key absences - with Wesley Fofana and Napolioni Nalaga both injured, and Morgan Parra suspended.
Clermont went in 13-3 up at half-time after a Elvis Vermeulen try but the second half was all about Bordeux. Talebula scored his first when he latched on to his own grubber kick to touch down, while the boot of Pierre Bernard helped to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
And Talebula saved the best until last, finding a gap in the Clermont line two minutes from time and racing home to score - sealing a memorable victory for Bordeaux and crucially denying Clermont a losing bonus point, allowing Toulon to move top on points difference.
Montpellier's Alex Tulou sees his progress impeded by two Stade tacklers © Getty Images
Toulouse ended a run of five straight defeats with an emphatic 37-9 victory over Perpignan.
A penalty try kicked off proceedings for Toulouse, before the floodgates opened, with Jaba Bregvadze, Yacouba Camara, Vincent Clerc and Gael Fickou all crossed. The win moves Toulouse up to fifth in the table.
Elsewhere, Grenoble's play-off hopes took another setback as they lost 31-6 to Brive, while Racing Metro beat Castres 25-15.
Montpellier bounced back from last weekend's heavy defeat to Clermont with a 19-10 home win over Stade Français, a result which saw the home side leapfrog the Parisians into second place.
Montpellier came into the game on the back of a 42-16 thrashing last time out but were unable to make an early breakthrough in a scoreless first half. But they burst into life after the break, taking the initiative with two quick-fire tries.
Francois Trinh-Duc was the architecht for the first, skipping past a poor Jonathan Danty tackle to release Rene Ranger to open the scoring. Benoit Paillaugue converted, and then turned creator himself - starting and finishing a move after a dummy pass opened up a gap in the Stade defence. The ball went through the hands of Alex Tulou and then Ranger, before Paillaugue finished off the move he started in the corner to put the visitors 12-0 up after 55 minutes.
A Morne Steyn penalty and a try from Danty narrowed the gap to two points but Montpellier held firm in the closing stages, finally securing the win in stoppage time when Timoci Nagusa escaped through a gap to touch down.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton