The Top 14 returned and we had some interesting results over the weekend as the European season are getting closer to the business end of the season.
After a sublime goalkicking performance from Leigh Halfpenny helped Toulon canter past Toulouse 33-23 at the Stade Velodrome.
Toulon jumped to third place on the table after the win and sit on 57 points behind La Rochelle and Clermont, while Toulouse stay at 10th place with 47 points.
Toulon scored the first points of the game after they were awarded a penalty try which mercurial full-back Halfpenny converted. The try came after Maxime Médard was yellow carded which was detrimental to the away side’s defence.
Toulouse closed the gap a few minutes later after scrum-half Samuel Marques slotted a penalty making the score 7-3.
The home side would furthered their lead just moments after that as on the 23rd minute Guilhem Guirado barged over the line with Halfpenny knocking over the conversion once again making the score 14-3.
Toulouse got their first try of the match after Paul Perez dotted down with Marques adding the extras which took the away side right back into the game. Former All Black Luke McAlister then made it a one-point game (14-13) after slotting a penalty.
Halfpenny responded quickly with a three successive penalties to try and take the game away from Toulouse who were creeping their way back in.
The Welsh man’s efforts were boosted after François Trinh-Duc slotted a well-weighted drop goal to further cancel out a Marques’s penalty.
Another former All Black centre Ma’a Nonu, would score the final try of the game which Halfpenny converted once again, rounding off a solid kicking performance from the home side.
Tries: Guirado, Nonu, Penalty Try
Cons: Halfpenny 3
Pens: Halfpenny 3
Drop Goal: Trinh-Duc
Tries: Perez, Johnston
Cons: Marques 2
Pens: Marques 2, McAlister
Yellow Card: Médard
A first-half blitz from Racing 92 saw them claim a 34-32 win over Pau at Stade Yves Du Manoir on Sunday.
It looked as though Pau were dead and buried until the final ten minutes when the visitors turned on the pressure and scored three incredible tries through Watisoni Votu, Romain Buros and Daniel Ramsay which changed the scoreline from 34-13 to 34-32, but the Parisians had done enough to keep their lead.
Racing 92 drew first blood when Joe Rokocoko dotted down a try in the sixth minute with All Black legend Dan Carter adding the extras.
New Zealander Tom Taylor would added Pau’s first points of the game after slotting a penalty in the tenth minute to try and close the gap on their opponents.
Racing built on their lead though in the 17th minute when Juan Imhoff crossed to make his side’s tally 17-3 after help from Carter’s five points which came through a conversion and a penalty.
The Parisians were relentless in their display of dominance after scoring another five-pointer 10 minutes later when Ben Tameifuna barged over the whitewash which made the score an imposing 27-3 after Carter’s extras.
The visitors finally claimed a try of their own when hooker Quentin Lespiaucq added five points for his team but unfortunately for them the conversion was missed and would go into the half 27-8 down.
Racing were the first out of the blocks in the second half with outside centre Henry Chavancy making it a big scoreline, with Carter effortlessly adding another two points.
Pau scored their second when replacement Taniela Moa burst through the opposition defence and closed the gap with a conversion being missed once again which would be the beginning of Pau’s titanic comeback.
It stayed quiet until the last five minutes which is where the game really got interesting.
Pau scored three tries in 10 minutes after playing from all over the field and if they had knocked over some of their conversions earlier in the game it might have been a very different ending.
For Racing 92:
Tries: Rokocoko, Imhoff, Tameifuna,
Cons: Carter 4
Pens: Carter 2
Tries: Lespiaucq, Moa, Votu, Buros, Ramsay,
Cons: Fajardo 2
La Rochelle 16-5 Bordeaux-Bègles
Montpellier 54-14 Grenoble
Castres 16-17 Lyon
Bayonne 16-32 Stade Français
Clermont 21-26 Brive
La Rochelle 16-5 Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle
La Rochelle effectively secured a home semi-final following a battling 16-5 triumph over Bordeaux-Bègles.
UBB still harbour hopes of reaching the play-offs and they frustrated the league leaders for large periods of the game, but the hosts were ultimately too powerful.
It took La Rochelle half-an-hour to register their first – and last – try when Kini Murimurivalu touched down before Bordeaux reduced the arrears at the interval through Jayden Spence.
The game was not exactly a free-flowing affair and the attrional contest continued after the break, with Brock James’ successive three-pointers the only scores in the third quarter.
James’ penalties came during the 10 minutes back-row Hugh Chalmers was in the sin-bin and the eight-point cushion proved crucial.
It forced Bordeaux to overplay and the home side duly benefited, sealing the victory following another penalty by their stand-off.
For La Rochelle:
Pens: James 3
Yellow Card: Chalmers
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Vincent Rattez, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Arthur Retiere, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Afa Amosa, 6 Kevin Gourdon, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel.
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Damien Lagrange, 19 Charlie Francoz, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Benjamin Noble, 22 Steeve Barry, 23 Uini Atonio.
Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 13 Jayden Spence, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Baptiste Serin, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Loann Goujon, 5 Cyril Cazeaux, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Clement Maynadier, 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Sebastien Taofifenua, 17 Ole Avei, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 21 Simon Hickey, 22 Nans Ducuing, 23 Marc Clerc.
Referee: Sébastien Minery
Assistant Referees: Laurent Millotte, Thomas Déjean
TMO: Eric Gauzins
Montpellier 54-14 Grenoble
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier
A superb first half was the catalyst as Montpellier thrashed ProD2-bound Grenoble 54-14 and, in the process, maintained their own home semi-final ambitions.
Jake White’s men were dominant before the break, scoring five tries through Yvan Reilhac, Joe Tomane, Bismarck du Plessis, Fulgence Ouedraogo and Kelian Galletier.
Those efforts came in the opening half-hour as they effectively secured the victory and sent the visitors towards relegation.
Grenoble improved in the second period and hit back via Arnaud Heguy but that only served to motivate Montpellier even further.
They duly went over three more times when Gagi Bazadze, Nic White and Nemani Nadolo crossed the whitewash.
The visitors did have the final word through Maritino Nemani’s touchdown but it had no effect on the end result and, should Toulouse defeat Toulon tomorrow, Grenoble’s demotion will be confirmed.
Tries: Reilhac, Tomane, B. du Plessis, Ouedraogo, Galletier, Bazadze, White, Nadolo
Cons: W. du Plessis 7
Yellow Cards: Fichten, Nariashvili
Tries: Heguy, Nemani
Cons: Mele 2
Yellow Cards: Setephano, Jolmes
Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Kelian Galletier, 7 Antoine Battut, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Antoine Guillamon, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gregory Fichten.
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Konstantine Mikautadze, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Nic White, 21 Jesse Mogg, 22 Nemani Nadolo, 23 Gagi Bazadze.
Grenoble: 15 Armand Batlle, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Maritino Nemani, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Edward Sawailau, 10 David Mele, 9 Lilian Saseras, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Mathias Marie, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Mickael Capelli, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Arnaud Heguy, 17 Dylan Jacquot, 18 Thomas Jolmes, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Loic Baradel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Clement Gelin, 23 Ali Oz
Referee: Cédric Marchat
Assistant Referees: Laurent Cardona, Laurent Breil
TMO: Denis Grenouillet
Castres 16-17 Lyon
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres
Castres’ play-off hopes were dented by a rare home defeat after Lyon’s superb rearguard resilience saw them come away with a 17-16 victory.
It was a typically bruising contest and discipline was an issue, particularly for the hosts, as Lionel Beauxis kicked four penalties in the first half.
The subtlety was eventually supplied, however, and it was no surprise that it came via David Smith, who scampered over on the half-hour mark.
When Benjamin Urdapilleta reduced the arrears further, it appeared as though Castres were on course to overcome their early slackness.
They did not count on Napolioni Nalaga, though, who touched down for the winning score as Lyon moved to within three points of the home side, despite Urdapilleta two second half three-pointers.
Pens: Urdapilleta 3
Yellow Cards: Urdapilleta, Rallier
Pens: Beauxis 4
Yellow Card: Privat
Castres: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 12 Florian Vialelle, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Steve Mafi, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Victor Moreaux, 19 Alex Tulou, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Damien Tussac.
Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Thibaut Regard, 12 Hemani Paea, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Virgile Bruni, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Thibault Privat, 4 Taiasina Tuifua, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Albertus Buckle, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Carl Fearns, 20 Freddie Michalak, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Rudi Wulf, 23 BJ Botha.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Noirot, Thierry Guilloton
TMO: Jean-Marie Piraveau
Bayonne 16-32 Stade Français
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne
Bayonne’s inevitable relegation from the Top 14 was confirmed following a 32-16 thrashing at the hands of Stade Français.
The writing has been on the wall for several months and the hosts’ second half collapse eventually saw them succumb to the trapdoor.
Although they battled before the break – with Martin Bustos Moyano and Morne Steyn trading penalties, Hugo Bonneval’s try on the stroke of half-time changed the course of the game.
Moyano added two more three-pointers in the second period but further touchdowns from Sekou Macalou, Waisea Vuidravuwalu and Bonneval gave the Parisians the win.
Stade can now look to potentially making a late surge for the play-offs while Bayonne, who did get a consolation score via Gregory Arganese, will play in ProD2 next year.
Pens: Moyano 3
Yellow Cards: Moyano, Taufa
For Stade Français:
Tries: Bonneval 2, Macalou, Vuidravuwalu
Cons: Steyn 3
Pens: Steyn 2
Yellow Card: Ross
Bayonne: 15 Martin Bustos Moyano, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Felix Le Bourhis, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Kade Poki, 10 Raphael Lagarde, 9 Guillaume Rouet, 8 Jean Monribot, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Pablo Huete, 3 Richard Choirat, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Aretz Iguiniz.
Replacements: 16 Gregory Arganese, 17 Jerome Schuster, 18 John Beattie, 19 Adam Jaulhac, 20 Emmanuel Saubusse, 21 Lucas Meret, 22 Bastien Fuster, 23 Toma’Akino Taufa.
Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Waisea Vuidravuwalu, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Sekou Macalou, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Laurent Panis, 1 Zurabi Zhvania.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Abdellatif Boutaty, 19 Antoine Burban, 20 Clement Daguin, 21 Jules Plisson, 22 Jonathan Danty, 23 Giogi Melikidze.
Referee: Pierre Brousset
Assistant Referees: Stéphane Boyer, Eric Soulan
TMO: Eric Briquet Campin
Clermont 21-26 Brive
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand
Brive did what used to be considered the impossible and overcame Clermont Auvergne at the Stade Marcel Michelin, securing a 26-21 triumph to move into the play-off places.
Clermont made a number of changes to their squad after the club’s Champions Cup quarter-final victory over Toulon and they were caught cold early on as Petrus Hauman touched down.
The hosts recovered to lead via Patricio Fernandez’s penalty and Scott Spedding’s try, but the away team regained their advantage through Benjamin Petre.
Auvergne responded once again when Fernandez kicked successive three-pointers and they looked to continue that momentum in the second period, particularly with Thomas Laranjeira spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
However, Brive were outstanding immediately following the interval and they secured an impressive win when, despite being down to 14 men, Mathieu Ugalde and Benjamin Lapeyre touched down.
Morgan Parra reduced the deficit and also gained a losing bonus-point for Clermont, but Brive held on.
Tries: Spedding, Parra
Pens: Fernandez 3
Tries: Hauman, Petre, Ugalde, Lapeyre
Cons: Laranjeira, Lapeyre 2
Yellow Card: Laranjeira
Clermont: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Remy Grosso, 10 Patricio Fernandez, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Camille Gerondeau, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Judicael Cancoriet, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Clement Ric, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Otari Giorgadze, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Aurelien Rougerie, 22 Scott Spedding, 23 Aaron Jarvis.
Brive: 15 Thomas Laranjeira, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Benjamin Petre, 12 Sevanaia Galala, 11 Benjamin Lapeyre, 10 Mathieu Ugalde, 9 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Petrus Hauman, 7 Putasi Luafutu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Jan Uys, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Soso Bekoshvili, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Karlen Asieshvili.
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Vivien Devisme, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 21 Nicolas Bezy, 22 Benedito Masilevu, 23 Damien Jourdain.
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant Referees: Adrien Descottes, Sébastien Hebert
TMO: Arnaud Blondel