Top 14, r26: Toulon despair after crashing at Montpellier; Stade Toulouse confirm top spot
07 May 2011
Down and out: Toulon's fly-
half Jonny Wilkinson
Photo: Eoin Mundow/Cleva Media
Big-spending Toulon have failed to make the Top 14 play-offs after crashing 27-3 away to Montpellier - who will now go through at Toulon's expense.
Fabien Galthié's side came into this match on the back of two successive defeats and knowing they had to win to qualify, and they got off to a superb start when Argentine Martin Bustos Moyano touched down after just five minutes.
The versatile Puma duly converted his own try, but Toulon soon cut the advantage when Jonny Wilkinson landed a penalty in reply on nine minutes.
Top 14 League Table 2010/11
But that was as good as it got on a miserable afternoon for Philippe Saint-André's side. The late injury which forced skipper Joe Van Niekerk to withdraw from their starting line-up was an ominous omen, and one hates to think how ambitious and straight-talking owner Mourad Boudjellal will respond to them making neither the play-offs nor next season's Heineken Cup.
Bustos Moyano added a 40th-minute penalty to put Montpellier 10-3 up at the break, and when Wilkinson went off (to be replaced by Felipe Contepomi) soon after the restart perhaps Toulon supporters knew their time was up.
Van Niekerk made his belated entry on 48 minutes when he replaced Joe El-Abd, but Montpellier surged further ahead on 55 minutes when Timoci Nagusa touched down after a Francois Trinh-Duc intercept.
Bustos Moyano was again on target with the conversion, and went on to add a penalty on 69 minutes which put the home side 20-3 ahead.
Montpellier's joy, and Toulon's utter dejection, was then completed when Trinh-Duc touched down himself on 73 minutes to earn the home side the attacking bonus and a famous win as they qualified for the play-offs for the first time in their history.
Castres v Montpellier
Clermont Auvergne v Biarritz
Semi-finals: (to be played at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille)
Stade Toulousain v winner of Clermont/Biarritz
Racing-Métro 92 v winner of Castres/Montpellier
|Saturday 07 May 2011
Leaders Stade Toulousain bounced back from their Heineken Cup loss to beat defending French champions Clermont Auvergne 15-6.
The victory guaranteed they finished in top spot, and thus have the choice of which day to play their semi-final.
They just managed to win out in an error-strewn game, with winger Maxime Médard scoring the game's only try in the first half as he rounded off a flowing backs' move that featured a typically physical break from Rupeni Caucaunibuca.
The score was Médard's 15th in Top 14 this season, confirming him as the league's leading try scorer by some distance.
Young fly-half Nicolas Bézy added the conversion to leave Guy Noves' team 10-3 up at the break, with Clermont's points coming courtesy of a 26th-minute penalty from Morgan Parra. Toulouse were, however, temporarily down to 14 men after Yannick Jauzion was yellow-carded for taking out Aurélien Rougerie without the ball just before the interval.
Bézy and Parra exchanged kicks at the start of the second period before the former gave way to David Skrela, playing his last home game for Toulouse before joining Clermont in the summer.
Caucaunibuca sealed the Toulouse win when he touched down just before the hour mark, leaving the hosts with a 100% home record for the season as they target an 18th French title to make amends for their European blues.
There was bad news for Clermont skipper and France centre Aurélien Rougerie after it was confirmed he had a fractured and dislocated left ankle following the tackle with earned Jauzion a yellow card. He will now definitely miss the play-offs and must be a serious doubt for the World Cup too.
Racing-Métro 92 are the other team to qualify directly for the semi-finals after they trounced Paris rivals Stade Francais 29-16.
Pierre Berbizier's side stormed into an early 17-3 lead after tries from Sireli Bobo (2 mins), Frans Steyn (10 mins) and Henry Chavancy (13 mins), although fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski could only add one of his three conversion attempts.
A 26th-minute yellow card for full-back Dan Scarbrough (for taking out Lionel Beauxis without the ball) temporarily change the game, however, with Stade finally getting a try of their own when scrum-half Julien Dupuy darted in from 10 out. Beauxis kicked the conversion, to add to his earlier penalty, but Wisniewski landed a penalty in reply right on the stroke of half time to leave Racing 20-10 ahead.
Beauxis was on target with another penalty six minutes after the restart, but Wisniewski slotted further efforts of his own on 48 and 51 minutes to maintain Racing's dominance.
Noel Oelschig kicked a penalty back for Stade on 61 minutes, but Wisniewski had the last word as he landed a fourth penalty of his own on 69 minutes to take his match haul to 14 points - and leave him as Top 14's leading scorer with 324 during the season.
Castres ensured a home quarter-final with their 29-10 away win at 2009 champions Perpignan. Castres had only won twice on the road this season, but they defeated the Catalans thanks to a brace of first-half tries from France winger Marc Andreu.
Perpignan had no hope of qualifying for the play-offs but were hoping to give departing head coach Jacques Brunel a victorious send-off. Their hopes, however, were severely dashed as Castres soon opened up a 10-0 lead after Romain Teulet slotted an early penalty and then converted Andreu's first effort, an intercepted try on 13 minutes as he easily read David Mélé's pass.
Perpignan full-back Jérôme Porical raised home spirits with a 16th-minute try, but he was unable to convert his own effort.
Castres were denied a second try when Chris Masoe was adjudged to have knocked-on in the 25th-minute, but they continued to attack and duly scored when Andreu touched down again six minutes before the break. Teulet was on target with the conversion once more, but 'Robocop' blotted his copybook slightly on 39 minutes when he was sin-binned.
Their numerical disadvantage didn't overly hinder Castres, however, with Iosefa Tekori claiming their third try six minutes after the restart, and although replacement hooker Charles Geli grabbed one back for Perpignan it was Castres who finished on top with Teulet himself scoring their final try with one minute left. The full-back converted his own attempt to leave the final score 27-10, condemning Perpignan to a third home defeat and leaving his own season's tally on 319 points.
Leading scorers in Top 14 2010/11
Elsewhere, Biarritz confirmed their play-off participation with a nervy 22-18 win at basement club Bourgoin.
The Basques were indebted to the boot of France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili as he kicked 17 of his side's points via five penalties and a conversion, with former England flanker Magnus Lund grabbing their only try (in the 49th minute).
Biarritz were 16-6 up at that point but Bourgoin belied the form which had seen them lose their previous 16 league games as they battled back through late tries from Connie Basson and Thomas Genevois. At 18-22 with 10 minutes left they even raised hopes of a first league win in seven months, but it wasn't to be as they finally bade farewell to Top 14 after a traumatic and turbulent season.
SU Agen ended their first season back in Top 14 with a resounding 36-10 home win against Brive at the Stade Armandie.
Christophe Deylaud's side initially went 3-0 behind after an early Mathieu Belie before blowing Brive out of the water with three tries in 15 minutes. First over was former Bourgoin full-back Sylver Tian, with Australian centre Junior Pelesasa and Tongan number eight Ueleni Fono following suit soon after.
A 27th-minute yellow-card for Brive winger Nicolas Jeanjean didn't help the visitors' cause, and their travails deepened three minutes after the restart when Saimone Vaka ran in for Agen's fourth try of the afternoon. Fly-half Conrad Barnard added the conversion to leave it 24-3 to the hosts.
Tian then went over again on the hour mark, for his second try of the match, while Agen's sixth was scored by winger Brice Dulin with 10 minutes left.
Brive did at least manage a try back of their own when Ronnie Cooke scored just before the end, but it couldn't detract from another excellent afternoon for Agen in front of their passionate fans at the Stade Armandie.
The victory - their sixth in succession at home - meant that Agen climbed above Stade Francais and finished a highly respectable 10th after being promoted as ProD2 champions last year.
In Saturday's other game Bayonne won 30-17 at La Rochelle, but it still wasn't enough to earn them a play-off spot.
France winger Yohann Huget scored two tries, with South African JP Pietersen turning on the afterburners for Bayonne's other score. Fly-half Benjamin Boyet kicked all three conversions, as well as three penalties, while Manoel Dall'Igna grabbed a consolation try for La Rochelle in their final game in Top 14.