Clerc double enough for Toulouse

Date published: March 14 2015

Vincent Clerc scored two tries as Toulouse saw off play-off rivals Montpellier 18-13 in a hard-fought game at Ernest Wallon.

The replacement winger moved level with Aurélien Rougerie as the most prolific active try-scorer in the Top 14, showing off his opportunism as Rene Ranger struggled under the high ball.

The game started with an incredible passage of play, with both sides having chances to score inside the first two minutes. Eventually play was stopped for a late tackle by Joe Tekori, who was arguably fortunate to avoid a yellow card.

His luck changed a minute later though as he picked up that yellow card for reacting to a dangerous tackle by Yvan Watremez, who should have joined him in the bin for an embarrassing dive after barely being touched by the Samoan.

Benoit Paillaugue opened the scoring in the absence of Ben Lucas, still recovering from Tekori's earlier tackle, which had also seen François Trinh-Duc make his return as an early replacement.

Lucas returned and stretched the lead to 6-0, but then missed a simple shot at goal midway through the half after a scrum penalty, but was off-target from in front. 

Still, the visitors were clearly in the ascendancy, against a Toulouse team that were struggling both in the lineout, and also for quick ball, with Montpellier successfully slowing it down in the rucks.

When Toulouse finally did manage to speed things up, they looked very dangerous with a good break from Sébastien Bezy. After three consecutive infringements, Toulouse were able to cut the lead to three points through the boot of Luke McAlister.

Montpellier came back and almost had the first try through Rene Ranger after a great break from Anthony Tuitavake, but there was a clear forward pass between the two former All Blacks and the TMO rightly disallowed it.

Toulouse came back, and levelled matters with a powerful scrum of their own after 35 minutes, McAlister converting as Toulouse were proving much more clinical despite being dominated for much of the half.

That was how it remained until half-time, although Toulouse were dealt a blow when Clément Poitrenaud was forced off with what looked like a serious ankle injury.

That saw Clerc come on, and while he has certainly lost a step since his peak in the French team, he showed he is still a very capable finisher.

On the hour he took advantage of hesitation from Ranger, who failed to deal with Luke McAlister's little chip, with the Toulouse winger popping up in the right place to dot down.

McAlister missed the conversion, but put up another high kick a few minutes later, with Ranger again failing to deal with the high ball, and Clerc collecting and dropping down in-goal.

This time McAlister converted, and Toulouse looked to be in control, leading 18-6, but Montpellier came right back. Despite the suspicion of a forward pass from Paillaugue to Ranger, the former All Black was able to offload off the deck for Timoci Nagusa to go over. Lucas' conversion got the visitors back to within five points.

However the home side did enough to hang on, and solidify their place in the top six, with Montpellier now facing a very tough battle to reach the play-offs, despite a losing bonus point.

The scorers:

For Toulouse:
Tries: Clerc 2
Con: McAlister
Pen: McAlister
Yellow Card: Tekori

For Montpellier:
Try: Nagusa
Con: Lucas
Pens: Paillaugue, Lucas

The teams:

Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Maxime Médard, 13 Yann David, 12 Florian Fritz (c), 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sébastien Bezy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Grégory Lamboley, 4 Joe Tekori, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Edwin Maka, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 Vincent Clerc, 22 Jano Vermaak, 23 Census Johnston

Montpellier: 15 Timoci Nagusa, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Lucas Dupont, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Antoine Battut, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Yvan Watremez
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Chris King, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Alex Tulou, 20 Jonathan Pelissié, 21 Francois Trinh-Duc, 22 Samisoni Viriviri, 23 David Attoub

Venue: Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse 
Referee: Christophe Berdos