Toulouse signaled their return to winning ways in the Top 14 on Wednesday with a workmanlike 22-11 home win over Perpignan.
Montpellier launched an epic fight back to come from behind to snatch a late victory over Stade FranÃ§ais while Castres and Clermont racked up impressive wins.
Clermont ran no less than seven tries past Brive as the central derby once again turn into a yellow demolition job. Castres consolidated their lead in the standings with a solid win at home to Montauban.
Bayonne were the big losers of the day, going down narrowly to Racing Metro, who extended their winning run to nine matches.
Elsewhere, Biarritz got their campaign going in the right direction as they cruised past Bourgoin while Toulon were unsurprising winners against lowly Albi.
Montpellier 25-23 Stade FranÃ§ais
Castres 30-7 Montauban
Clermont 52-10 Brive
Bayonne 19-23 Racing Metro
Toulon 41-13 Albi
Biarritz 23-6 Bourgoin
Toulouse 22-11 Perpignan
1 Castres 51
2 Clermont 47
3 Racing Metro 47
4 Toulouse 45
5 Perpignan 45
6 Toulon 42
7 Stade FranÃ§ais 39
8 Biarritz 37
9 Brive 33
10 Montpellier 33
11 Montauban 30
12 Bourgoin 27
13 Bayonne 24
14 Albi 19
Montpellier HRC 25-23 Stade FranÃ§ais
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier
A brilliant win for les Heraultais who can breath again as they move away from the relegation zone. Stade FranÃ§ais on the other hand continue to make life difficult for themselves, going down despite scoring a try more than their hosts.
Stade FranÃ§ais were victims of complacency as they led 23-9 going into the final quarter only to see Montpol fight back thanks to a try from hooker Joan Caudullo and some faultless place-kicking from full-back Frederico Todeschini.
After heading to the changing rooms level at 6-all, the visitors raced ahead in the second half when centre Geoffrey Messina scores twice in the space of seven minutes.
The with clear lead, the Parisian coaching staff proceeded to make a number of changes to their team, only to see the wheels come off as Caudullo touched down and Todeschini kicked four penalties in the last half an hour, including the winner with just three minutes left on the clock.
Stade coach Jacques Delmas was fuming at the fact that his side failed to score one point in the final 25 minutes while Montpellier scored 16.
“Our kicking game was non-existent, instead of continually kicking up and unders we should have been more perspicacious and effective in driving the opponents back into their territory.
“I cannot see how with a 14 point lead we could lose this match.”
Castres Olympique 30-7 Montauban
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres
The league leaders finished the year in fine style win a three-try win, although they missed out on a bonus point.
It visitors enjoyed the better of the early running, leading 7-3 after ten minutes when kiwi full-back Shannon Paku crashed over.
But Castres soon took control of the match as Romain Teulet put them ahead with three penalties.
Three tries in under fifteen minutes in the last quarter put the result beyond doubt. Chris Masoe, Joe Tekori and Yann Audrin touched down as the Tarnais march into 2010 clear leaders of the Top 14.
Castres joint coach Laurent Travers was encouraged by the performance without going overboard of how significant it was towards winning the title – a dream that he and co-coach Laurent Labit have made realistic in only their first season in charge after leaving Montauban.
“We experienced some precarious moments in the first-half,” he
“The Montauban players don't let anything go. What is good, is that we never lost our way and we found the answers, but the score does not reflect the overall balance of the match.”
Clermont Auvergne 52-10 CA Brive-CorrÃ¨ze
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand
As in recent years, Brive headed to Clermont Ferrand to receive a derby hiding.
Seven tries and a bonus point see Clermont move up to second place in the standings.
Brent Russell started the try-festival after ten minutes before Julien Malzieu celebrated his new contract with slaloming run to score in the 23rd. Kevin Senio (28th) and Wesley Fofana (34th) made sure Brive were out of the game before half time.
In the second half the Clermont pack got into the action as Mario Ledesma (45th) and Lionel Faure (52nd) barged over before Gavin Williams sealed the deal in the 80th minute.
Luciano Orquera scored all of Brive's points, including a consolation try, three minuets from time.
Stade Toulousain 22-11 USA Perpignan
Stadium de Toulouse
Perpignan will head home ruing a number of missed opportunities, but nothing should be taken away from the deathly clinical style with which Toulouse seized the game.
The result marks Toulouse's first win this season against one of the main rivals as the Rouge et Noir climb above Perpignan on points difference in the standings.
Toulouse took an early 6-0 lead thanks to the hard graft of their pack, a drop from David Skrela and a Fred Michalak penalty. Perpignan were first to cross the whitewash however when Gerrie Britz finished off a moved started from a David Marty break.
Another Michalak penalty made the score 9-5 to the hosts at half-time despite Perpignan's domination.
Soon after the break Jerome Porical's penalty made it a one-point game. Michalak and the Catalan full-back exchanged penalties again to leave the scores 12-11 going into the final ten minutes.
The hosts were playing much better rugby in the second half and took the game by the scruff of the neck when full-back Clement Poitrenaud intercepted Rimas' Alvarez-Kairelis to score.
With Toulouse win the territorial battle in the final minutes, Skrela made sure of the win with his second drop.
Toulouse manager Guy Noves expressed himself delighted with the win even if he risks losing France captain Thierry Dusautoir for Sunday's match with Bayonne. And the fiery Toulouse handler was not best pleased at one of the questions posed to him.
“If this victory reassures me? Frankly, I have had enough that after every match I am asked that question. We are happy that have shown a lot of heart, that is all,” he said.
Perpignan general manager Jacques Brunel saw some bright spots in the defeat with the title the only thing possible for his side after they crashed out of the European Cup.
“I am disappointed but satisfied at the same time,” he commented.
“Disappointed by the defeat and the fact we didn't get a bonus defensive point.
“It is frustrating because we deserved more.”