Toulouse consolidate top spot
January 27, 2011
Toulon's Rudi Wulf drags two defenders with him during the clash with La Rochelle © Getty Images
Toulouse consolidated their place at the summit of the French Top 14 with a 29-9 victory over Montpellier at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Thursday night.
The reigning European champions put the disappointment of failing to seize a Heineken Cup home quarter final last weekend behind them with a four try performance that moves them seven points clear at the top of the table. France winger Maxime Medard scored two tries before coming off with 14 minutes remaining while replacement prop Census Johnson also grabbed a double having come on after the break.
Toulouse fly-half David Skrela converted three of the four tries and added another penalty. Martin Bustos Moyana kicked three penalties for Montpellier who drop a place to fifth in the table.
With France facing Scotland in the Six Nations next weekend French skipper Thierry Dusautoir, William Servat, and Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc were all withdrawn before the end. Although Yannick Jauzion, Vincent Clerc and Skrela were all among the internationals to play a full 80 minutes.
Biarritz completed a remarkable comeback to beat Perpignan 23-21 at the Parc des Sports Aguilera. Perpignan, boosted by their progression into the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup last weekend, raced into a 21-0 lead after just 23 minutes, but Biarritz clawed their way back with Dimitri Yachvili calmly slotting the crucial penalty with three minutes remaining.
Biarritz were on the back foot in the opening stages and, after prop Sylvain Marconnet was yellow carded in the 13th minute, Perpignan demolished their opponent's weakened scrum and were promptly awarded a penalty try, which was converted by Jerome Porical.
The visitors extended their lead when France hopeful Maxime Mermoz went over in the 20th minute. And then his midfield partner David Marty took centre stage as his barging run created the space for replacement Joffrey Michel to run in under the posts. Porical was accurate with both conversions.
Biarritz hit back with a close range try from flanker Benoit Guyot with Yachvili converting and adding a penalty soon after. Perpignan's advantage was trimmed further early in the second half when Raphael Lakafia went over. Yachvili converted the try before kicking a further two penalties to overhaul their rivals and consolidate their place in fourth.
Despite receiveing treatment for a calf injury Biarritz backrow Imanol Harinordoquy lasted the entire game ahead of France's Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Toulon lost both half-backs Pierre Mignoni and Felipe Contepomi to injury in the opening 25 minutes before they also came from behind to beat La Rochelle 12-9 the Stade Mayol.
With Jonny Wilkinson away in Portugal with England, another former Newcastle man, Tom May, took the playmaking reins. But he struggled to inspire the European Cup quarter finalists as Greg Goosen kicked two penalties and Remy Tales slotted a drop-goal to give the visitors a 9-0 half-time lead.
However with 21 minutes remaining replacement Saimone Taumoepeau crossed before Fontunuupule Auelua also touched down with May adding the conversion to seal the win.
Clermont joined Racing Metro in second place on the Top 14 table after beating them 31-15 at the Stade Marcel Michelin in Wednesday's Round 17 opener.
The hosts leapfrogged Montpellier and went above their opponents on points difference as their impenetrable defence, which has conceded a league-best ten tries this season, proved too strong for Racing to crack.
Gonzalo Canale scored midway through the first half for Clermont, and although the collective kicking efforts of Frans Steyn, Mirco Bergamasco and Juan Martin Hernandez helped keep the deficit to two points at half time, further tries to Vincent Debaty, Alexandre Lapandry and a 16-point haul from scrum-half Morgan Parra made for a comfortable margin in the second half.
Castres overcame Stade Francais 34-12 at Stade Pierre-Antoine to retain sixth place ahead of Toulon.
The hosts established a 16-9 half-time lead thanks to a try from prop Yannick Forestier and three penalties and a conversion from fullback Romain Teulet. Stade were without England duo James Haskell and Tom Palmer, but fly-half Lionel Beauxis kept them in the game with three first-half penalties.
A further two penalties, though, from Teulet and a converted try from Marc Andreu extended Castres' lead as Beauxis was sent to the sin bin. And Teulet rounded off his 24-point haul with a try three minutes from time.
Mid-table Bayonne beat Brive 26-18 to send their opponents spiralling down the table.
The sides could not be separated at half time with Brive fullback Julien Caminati and Bayonne fly-half Benjamin Boyet both kicking two penalties. But after the break the game exploded into life with Yoann Huget, Cedric Garcia and Abdellatif Boutaty scored tries for Bayonne with David Khinchagashvili responding for Brive.
Caminati then converted his own try with five minutes remaining but the damage had already been done for Brive who sink to second bottom in the table.
Brive's defeat allowed Agen to jump above them and La Rochelle as they recorded a comfortable 26-9 victory over struggling Bourgoin at the Stade Armandie.
Fly-half Conrad Barnard scored 21 points, including a try, four penalties and two conversions, while Bourgoin could only manage three penalties from Silvere Tian. Centre Miguel Avramovic also touched down for Agen.
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