Planet Rugby

Top 14 Wrap: Round Nine

03rd October 2009 15:50

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Jerome Thion Biarritz perpignan

Jerome Thion does the hard graft for Biarritz

Biarritz continued their revival in the Top 14 on Saturday, storming past defending champions Perpignan to rise to third in the standings.

Castres' good run at the start to the season continued as they edged Toulon 21-19 at the Stade Pierre Antoine.

They rode their luck - a late penalty for Jonny Wilkinson could have seen Toulon steal it - but ultimately were good value for the win.

Elsewhere, Clermont breezed to a bonus point win over Bayonne, Toulouse failed to get a bonus point in Montpellier despite a blistering start and Racing Metro laboured to a 17-12 win over Montauban. Bourgoin set Albi well adrift at the bottom with a 26-16 win.

Week Nine results:

Friday, October 2

Stade Français 44-16 Brive

Saturday, October 3

Castres 21-19 Toulon
Clermont 38-13 Bayonne
Montpellier 12-30 Toulouse
Racing Metro 92 17-12 Montauban
Biarritz 27-12 Perpignan
Bourgoin 26-16 Albi

Standings:

1 Clermont Auvergne 30
2 Castres 29
3 Biarritz 28
4 Perpignan 27
5 Toulouse 26
6 Stade Francais 24
7 Toulon 21
8 Bourgoin 20
9 Racing Métro 19
10 Brive 18
11 Montauban 17
12 Bayonne 16
13 Montpellier 13
14 Albi 8

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Castres Olympique 21-19 RC Toulon
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

A belter of a game, played in as raucous an atmosphere as you could imagine, was won by Castres, although they had to rely on Jonny Wilkinson missing a kick to do it.

The difference between the teams at the break was a point, courtesy of the 13th-minute try by Mafileo Kefu that was the result of a staunch drive from Chris Masoe into Sebastien Bruno and Kefu's opportunism at the breakdown.

Jonny Wilkinson converted and added two penalties, while the diminutive Romain Teulet kicked three penalties for Castres to add to Cameron McIntyre's drop goal, which kept Castres snapping at Toulon's heels all the way to the break.

Also snapping were Castres, furious that Kefu was not sent off for a filthy tackle on Yoann Audrin for which only a yellow was issued. Kefu was even luckier not to be sent off early in the second half for a high tackle, an act which heated up the crowd to boiling point.

The scoring pattern continued in the second half. Wilkinson dropped a goal, 12-16. Teulet landed a penalty, 15-16.

Then Castres' Marc Andreu came within inches of scoring against the club he left under a cloud in the off-season, but was stopped by one of the imports who elbowed him out, Luke Rooney. On Castres went with a series of picks and drives which took them to 5m out and gave them a penalty for Teulet to give the home side the lead for the first time.

Castres's magnificent forward efforts kept them going. McIntyre landed a second drop goal to put a glimmer of daylight in between the teams, but then Andreu was caught in front of a McIntyre kick and Wilkinson pulled it back to 21-19 with four minutes to go, seting up a thrilling finale.

One final effort from Toulon, a monster scrum near half-way, saw Masoe break off early and concede a penalty as the siren sounded. From roughly 50m with the angle, Wilkinson stepped up as he has done so often, but this time the kick drifted away and Castres' superlative start to the season continues.

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Clermont Auvergne 38-13 Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Marcel Michalin, Clermont-Ferrand

Much less to see here in the way of competition. Clermont took a while to hit full steam, but Napolioni Nalaga was in irresistible form and once he had run in two first-half tries the result was a foregone conclusion.

Benoit Baby got Clermont's scoreboard ticking with a long-range penalty, while Brock James converted both tries and added two penalties of his own from closer in.

Bayonne trailed 23-10 at the break, their only real moment coming when Sam Gerber intercepted a wild pass from James to race away and score after half an hour - Bayonne were already 20-3 adrift when he did.

An early second-half penalty for Bayonne saw the gap closed, but James restored it on 53 minutes, and then the floodgates opened. Loic Jacquet made it 31-13 on the hour mark, Brent Russell extended the lead further five minutes later, with James converting. End of story

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Montpellier HRC 12-30 Stade Toulousain
Stade Yves du Manoir, Montpellier

Little sweat for the visitors, who finally broke free of their shackles and delivered a colossal free-running opening that brought tries for Florian Fritz, Vincent Clerc and Louis Picamoles, all converted by Jean-Baptiste Elissalde who also added a drop goal, and all within the first 20 minutes.

The visitors were within an ace of scoring their fourth when Olivier Sarramea popped up to intercept Byron Kelleher's offload and steam 100 metres for a score for the home team.

Kelleher was so frustrated he saw yellow shortly after for a nasty late tackle on Benoit Paillaugue, but the try took the wind roght out of Toulouse's sails.

The second half was dismal, with Toulouse lowering their game to that of their opposition despite chasing the bonus-point try, and playing at far too frantic a pace. Elissalde kicked a penalty to make it 27-7 just to give the teams a break, but of constructive measured rugby, there was little sign.

The break came for the home side when terrific handling at pace between Thierry Brana and Sarramea sent Francois Trinh-Duc away for a try that extinguished any hope Toulouse had of getting the bonus point, displayed by Ellissalde's rather forlorn addition of a meaningless late penalty.

But Montpellier have to be worried; with one of Bourgoin or Albi winning the late game and grabbing four points, the Heraults are in a bit of a spot in 13th place.

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Racing Metro-92 17-12 Montauban
Stade Colombes, Paris

Racing got off to a dream start after just three minutes when Jerome Fillol pounced on Julien Audy's fumble, toed the ball through and scored.

Andrew Mehrtens extended the lead with two penalties as Montauban reeled from the blow, but slowly, and despite losing full-back Johan Dalla Riva to a yellow card, Montauban pulled back into the game, with Julien Audy finally kicking them onto the scoreboard after a half-hour.

The game tightened up even more and it was always going to come down to a battle of kickers. Audy landed to penalties in the second half to Mehrtens' one, then Frans Steyn weighed in with his first points in France, a typically long-range drop goal to make it 17-9 with five to go.

But a scrum infringement gave Audy the chance to notch his side a bonus point, which on reflection, was well-deserved.

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Biarritz Olympique 27-12 USA Perpignan
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

Biarritz sent a message out to the rest of the Top 14 with their fifth consecutive win on Saturday: The Basques are real title contenders after convincingly beating the defending champions.

The key to the home side's victory was domination of possession thanks to their set piece. The host stole five Perpignan line-outs and scored six points off penalties at scrum-time. With some ferocious work at the breakdowns, Les Biarrots never allow Perpignan enough time with the ball to build.

Biarritz drew first blood when Argentine full-back Marcelo Bosch after Dimitri Yachvili launched the Basque backline off an attacking scrum. Julien Peyrelongue added the conversion and a penalty for the hosts to which Perpignan replied with three penalties from Jerome Porical and a drop from Steve Meyer to give the Catalan a 12-10 lead at the break.

Bosch put BO back in front with a drop in the second half before American speed merchant Takudzwa Ngwenya extended the lead with a trademark try on the wing.

With the Catalans' discipline wavering, Yachvili put the game out of the visitors' reach with a couple of long-distance penalties.

CS Bourgoin-Jallieu 26-16 SCA Albi
Stade Pierre-Rajon, Bourgoin-Jallieu

Bourgoin struggled past Albi at home to leave Albi and Montpellier well adrift at the bottom of the table.

It was a see-saw match, where the lead changed hands several times, but Bourgoin's more measured and structured second half saw them through.

Rudi Coetzee opened the scoring somewhat controversially after David Janin has knocked on an up and under. With Albi - and indeed some of Bourgoin - standing and waiting the whistle, Coetzee kicked ahead and scored.

Albi wasted no time in getting the lead back, with Frederic Manca landing a penalty and then wing Lakafia receiving a long pass from a quick tap penalty and outstripping the defence to score.

But on the half-hour, Bourgoin stalwart Benjamin Boyet slipped through a couple of weak tackles to score, and converted his own try to leave the score at 12-10.

The killer moment was seconds into the second half, when Sylvain Nicolas and Coenie Basson combined to send the latter home for a try direct from the kick-off.

Thereafter, Bourgon took control, and three penalties from Boyet - replied to with two from Manca - settled matters.

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