ProD2 round 28: Racing Métro '92 promoted to Top 14; Béziers relegated to Féderale 1
26 April 2009
|RC Narbonne 21
|FC Auch Gers 7
||SCA Albi 11
|La Rochelle 23
|Lyon OU 27
|SU Agen 16
Racing Métro 33
Racing Métro 92 secured promotion to Top 14 next season - trading places with relegated Mont-de-Marsan - after they beat Union Bordeaux-Begles 33-12 on Sunday afternoon, and broke the 100 point barrier in the process.
Pierre Berbizier's runaway leaders notched victory number 23 - out of 28 - as they were finally able to pop the champagne that's been on ice for several weeks now. They will become the second Paris club in Top 14 - after Stade Francais - and are now set to unveil a raft of high profile signings, beginning with South African fly-half Francois Steyn.
Millionaire president Jacky Lorenzetti has plans to emulate the commercial and sporting success of illustrious neighbours Stade Francais, and plans to use his huge real estate fortune to bankroll a star-studded squad.
French international locks Lionel Nallet - captain of 'Les Bleus' - and Sebastien Chabal are also expected to arrive, from Castres and Sale Sharks respectively. But for now it is time to congratulate the players that got them there.
Sunday's win featured two more tries for prolific Fijian winger Sireli Bobo - his 10th and 11th of the season - and a last-minute effort from former Queensland Reds player Nic Berry. Ex-All Black fly-half Andrew Mehrtens chipped in with a brace of conversions and a 75th-minute drop goal, adding to the earlier three penalties and a conversion from starting No 10 Jonathan Wisniewski.
It all added up to a comfortable looking win, although 17 of those points came in a bombastic final five minutes.
Up until then Raphael Lagarde's four penalties had kept the home side in touch as they tried valiantly to play the party-poopers.
But it wasn't to be and now Racing can relax for their final two games, safe in the knowledge that the glitz and glamour of Top 14 beckons, as does an outing in next season's European Challenge Cup.
Who will join them in Top 14 remains to be seen, but SU Agen still head the play-off pack following their 16-12 home win against Aurillac on Saturday.
Fijian winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca started the scoring with his seventh-minute try - his 11th of the season - and fly-half Romain Sola continued the momentum with a conversion and three penalties.
Aurillac's Bourlon landed three penalties and a drop-goal of his own to ensure it wasn't one-way traffic, but Agen's Yoann Huget touched down ten minutes from the end to seal the home side's eighth successive win. It also Huget one try ahead of Caucaunibuca (with 12) in the race to finish as ProD2's top try-scorer.
Agen must be cursing there's only one automatic promotion slot as they are now 11 points ahead of third-placed La Rochelle, but at least it looks like they'll go into the play-offs on the back of a formidable winning run.
La Rochelle proved too strong for mid-table Grenoble as they ran out comfortable 23-7 winners. Romain Lacoste landed a first-half penalty an drop-goal to put them 6-0 ahead at the interval, with Yann Fior touching down to extend their lead shortly after the restart.
Lacoste added the conversion, and was on target again when the home side were awarded a penalty try after 62 minutes to ensure the win.
In-between scores Jone Daunivucu ran in for try number eight of the season for Grenoble, with Pierre Alexandre-Dut adding the extras.
SCA Albi, remain fourth (and level with La Rochelle on 78 points) after ending a three-match losing streak with a narrow following 11-7 away win at struggling FC Auch Gers.
Remarkably, the match remained pointless until the 48th minute when Kiwi Blair Stewart finally broke the deadlock with a penalty for the visitors. The London bus theory then burst into life, with 22-year-old full back Benjamin Lapeyre following up with a try five minutes later, before Frédéric Manca landed a second Albi penalty on the hour to make it 11-0.
Auch refused to buckle, however, and Sébastien Bruère grabbed his second try in successive weeks seven minutes from the end to make for a grandstand finale. Vincent Cortes kicked the conversion to narrow the gap to four points, but that's how it stayed as Auch were forced to settle for a defensive bonus after their fourth straight loss.
There was better news off the pitch, however, as the financially stricken club held a successful 'rugbython' to help raise funds to stave off the threat of bankruptcy. President Eric Belooussoff said exact figures were still being calculated but estimated 100,000 euros had been collected and expressed himself delighted by the result.
"We are very happy. A few weeks ago I said that we had a 99% chance of being relegated through bankruptcy, but now I would say we a 99% chance of survival," he added.
Most Top 14 clubs contributed items for a massive raffle, including signed shirts from Perpignan's All Black star Dan Carter, Stade Toulousain's Byron Kelleher - which raised the most at auction - and Biarritz's French international Imanol Harinordoquy.
Oyonnax occupy the last of the play-off berths at present after their 27-16 home win against lowly Colomiers left them just one point behind La Rochelle and Albi.
The victory was a personal triumph for Pierre-Yves Montagnat, who scored all 27 of Oyonnax's points through two tries, a conversion an five penalties. The prolific fly-half has now amassed an impressive 282 league points to ate this season - joint top in ProD2 with Tarbes' Richard Apanui.
Despite Montagnat's efforts the game remained alive however until his second try, in the 79th minute, finally guaranteed the win.
Two Corey Niwa penalties and a Frédéric Pujo drop-goal got them on the scoreboard before the break, with Guillaume Bortolaso's 46th-minute try (an Niwa conversion) leaving the match tantalisingly balanced at 17-16.
But Montagnat then stepped up to land penalty number five after 57 minutes, before ending the game with his late try an accompanying conversion.
Sixth-placed Lyon OU are still pushing hard for a play-off place, though, beating survival hopefuls Bourg-en-Bresse 27-10 on Saturday to record their sixth win in seven games.
Bourg arrive full of optimism after four successive victories had fuelled hopes of an unlikely escape, but Lyon soon dashed that as winger Lionel Gautherie ran in a brace of tries in the opening 25 minutes.
Nicolas Raffault added a third six minutes after the interval and Gautherie completed his hat-trick on the hour mark as Lyon secured the attacking bonus to close the gap on Oyonnax to two points.
Bourg did at least manage a try when Clint Eadie went over in the dying minutes, but this defeat left them on the precipice of relegation as they are now nine points behind 14th-placed Colomiers with just two games to go. Next week they entertain Racing Metro hoping the champions will still be nursing a considerable hangover.
Round 28 proved disastrous for the Midi-Pyrenees promotional hopefuls of Pau an Tarbes, however, with both going down to damaging defeats as they lost vital ground in the hunt for play-off places.
Next week's forthcoming derby (at Tarbes) will make for a stressful week, especially for Pau after they went down 21-15 at lowly RC Narbonne - their fifth defeat in seven matches.
The hosts went ahead first in a match of fluctuating fortunes thanks to Delkeith Potts' 10th-minute penalty, but Pau bounced back almost immediately through Sébastien Descons' 12th-minute reply.
Nine minutes later Potts crossed for the game's opening try, but his missed conversion allowed Pau to sneak a half-time lead after Clément Darbo touched down right on the whistle and Descons kicked the extras.
Four minutes after the restart Narbonne regained the lead through J Algis' try and Potts' conversion, extending the advantage further when the latter landed a 48th-minute penalty to make it 18-10.
But Pau battled back once more Clément Fromont's 54th-minute try and were pushing hard for the winner thereafter. The crucial score failed to materialize, however, and the match ended in acrimony as Potts landed a 79th penalty and Pau captain Paul Dearlove saw red.
Tarbes, meanwhile, crashed 35-19 away to bottom club Béziers, who were still relegated despite the impressive win.
Tarbes arrive on the back of five wins in six, but were kicked to defeat by Anthony Tesquet, who lane six penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal, for a match haul of 25 points.
Anthony Poujol and Mathieu Amoros grabbed the home side's tries - in the 24th and 53rd minutes respectively - while Tarbes were limited to four Anthony Bourgeois penalties until gaining a last-minute penalty try.
But disappointment shrouded the final whistle for both sides as once mighty Béziers kissed goodbye to their ProD2 status and Tarbes - who are now nine points off the play-off zone - effectively waved farewell to their promotion hopes.