Planet Rugby

Top 14 wrap: Big guns struggle

12th March 2011 15:18

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Toulouse winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca v Birve

Heavyweight strike: Rupeni Caucaunibuca scored Toulouse's only try

La Rochelle created the sensation of the weekend by upsetting Top 14 play-off hopefuls Montpellier while Toulouse struggled at home.

In a weekend of tightly contested encounters, all but one of the seven matches saw the losing side pick up a bonus point.

Toulouse retained the championship lead but were made to work very hard for their one-point win over Brive, who drop below La Rochelle and back into the relegation zone.

Racing Métro stay in second place after picking up a losing bonus point in a tight battle with Biarritz.

Castres moved up to third with a narrow win over defending champions Clermont.

Toulon ran six tries past Bourgoin to bag five crucial points while Agen were able to grab a point in Paris after pushing Stade Français all the way.

Results:

Perpignan 25-19 Bayonnais
Biarritz 36-32 Racing Métro
Stade Français 22-18 Agen
Toulon 39-17 Bourgoin
La Rochelle 20-16 Montpellier
Toulouse 23-22 Brive
Castres 23-19 Clermont

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Stade Toulousain 23-22 CA Brive Corrèze
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Phew! Toulouse were made to sweat - and not because of the weather - but got the job done.

In wet conditions, the scoring was left to Fred Michalak- win kicked a total of six penalties while Brive's Mathieu Belie (three) and Julien Caminati (two) added the visitors point to leave the sides locked at 15-15 going into the final quarter.

Fijian centre Rupeni Caucaunibuca still has an impressive gut, but he also still has that magic touch and he scored the first try with a dummy and powerful run.

Brive wing Alexis Palisson scored with ten minutes to go to set up a grandstand finish but les Coreziens were left to settle for a losing bonus point as they slide back into the red zone.

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Biarritz Olympique 36-32 Racing-Métro 92
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

Biarritz recorded their first win over Racing-Metro in their four Top 14 meetings with a thrilling victory.

Biarritz ran in four tries to Racing's two to give themselves a huge boost in their bid to finish in the top six and earn a place in the end-of-season play-offs.

Racing had stunned Biarritz with an early onslaught that saw them take a 16-3 lead, including a try by wing Julien Saubade, as the Parisians outplayed their hosts all over the pitch.

Biarritz coach Jean-Michel Gonzalez reacted by taking off prop Campbell Johnstone in the 20th minute, which immediately stabilised their scrum, and the balance of the match shifted further when Racing were reduced to 14 men two minutes later.

Springbok World Cup-winning back Francois Steyn was sin-binned for tackling Biarritz's Zimbabwe-born American international Takudzwa Ngwenya without the ball, which allowed the hosts back into the match.

Julien Peyrelongue converted the resulting penalty and then successfully converted a well-worked try by Yann Lesgourgues before levelling the match with another penalty seven minutes from the break.

Biarritz's momentum was not halted by the half-time pause as they ran in two tries in quick succession, first through Fijian wing Ilikena Bolakoro, who had escaped a sin-binning in the first-half for a deliberate block on opposite number Sireli Bobo.

Argentinian fly-half Marcelo Bosch then crossed over after fine work by in-form English full-back Iain Balshaw.

Racing, though, regrouped, and Steyn redeemed himself with a penalty from inside his own-half.

The visitors then grabbed their second try through prop Benjamin Noirot, which was converted by Jonathan Wisniweski, and a further long-range Steyn penalty gave them a 32-28 lead.

However, the hosts went back into the lead with just under 10 minutes remaining as Bolakoro broke though three tackles to touch down in the corner.

Peyrelongue's conversion attempt drifted wide, but he added a penalty four minutes from the final whistle to leave Racing requiring a try that they pressed for but could not find.

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Stade Rochelais Atlantique 20-16 Montpellier HR
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

La Rochelle fought back from 13-3 down to cause the upset of the weekend and climb out of the relegation zone in the process.

Les Maritimes ended a four-match losing streak as Montpellier's inconsistent from on the road dealt a blow to their play-off ambitions.

La Rochelle centre Tomas Combezou scored a try just before the break to leave his trailing 13-10 after

Montpellier fly-half Raphael Lagarde had nailed a drop-goal in the first minute and prop Dimitri Pelo had crashed over in teh 23rd minute.

La Rochelle took control in the second half however as Rémi Tales and full-back Benjamin Dambielle added his second conversion to got with two penalties.

Montpellier scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue slotted a late penalty to save a losing bonus point to leave Montpellier level with Biarritz in the standings.

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RC Toulon 39-17 CS Bourgoin-Jallieu
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

Six tries and a bonus point is just what the doctor ordered for Toulon. Three yellow cards and giving away were less welcome however.

Benjamin Lapeyre, Christian Loamanu and Fabien Cibray all touched down twice with fly-half Felipe Contepomi added the extras.

Replacement hooker Julien Janaudy scored for ProD2-bound Bourgoin early in the second period, but the rose had already bolted.

The hosts were forced to give away a penalty try in the dying minutes while Carl Hayman was in the sin bin for some fisticuffs.

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Stade Français Paris 22-18 SU Agen
Stade Charléty, Paris

Stade Français eased fears of getting swept up in the relegation battle but were made to fight very hard.

Stade's Italian star Mauro Bergamasco marked his return to action after several months out with a shoulder injury by scoring a 71st-minute try to snatch victory for the hosts.

Agen fly-half Conrad Barnard gave his side an early lead with two penalties and a drop-goal but Stade scrum-half Julien Dupuy added three penalties of his own to go with his score-opening effort to put the Parisians 129-9 up at the break.

Barnard and two more penalties and another drop to give Agen the lead with fifteen minutes left before Bergamasco's try saved the day for Stade Français.

A losing bonus point keeps Agen two point above the drop zone.

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Castres Olympique 23-19 ASM Clermont Auvergne
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Castres Olympique 23-19 ASM Clermont Auvergne
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

A huge result for Castres, who retain their unbeaten home record and climb above Clermont into third in the standings.

Clermont led 14-10 at half time as centre George Pisi's first try for his new club cancelled out Chris Masoe's earlier try for the hosts while Anthony Floch added three penalties.

Castres took the lead shortly after the restart when win Yoan Audrin scored but Clermont replied through Willie Wepener .

Romain Teulet added two penalties to edge Castres ahead in the closing stages.

Clermont ended the match camped on the Castres line, but couldn't find a way to crack the CO defence despite the hosts being reduced to fourteen men when Seramia Bai became the third player to see yellow after Clermont Thibault Privat and Marius Joubert each spent time in the bin.

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USA Perpignan 25-19 Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan

On Friday, Perpignan remain in contention for the play-offs thanks to tries from centre Rudi Coetzee and replacement prop Kisi Pulu.

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