Castres 16 (6)
Biarritz 13 (3)
In-form Castres maintained their 100% home record with a dogged 16-13 victory over Biarritz at the Stade Pierre Antoine on Friday night.
Castres' latest win was their seventh in eight league games, and moved them up to second in Top 14 - pending results elsewhere on Saturday.
Ace marksman Romain Teulet was once again their star man, landing three penalties and converting Rodrigo Capo-Ortega's second-half try as he helped take his team to the edge of play-off qualification. An away trip to Perpignan looms on the final day - in two weeks' time - but Castres look to have done enough barring some freakish results to at least make it through to the quarter-finals.
Biarritz, on the other hand, must now sweat on the weekend's other results as they wait to see how costly this defeat proves. Victories for Clermont, Montpellier and Toulon would push them outside the top six, although the latter two of that group will go head-to-head in round 26 to offer them realistic hope. The Basques, meanwhile, will travel to a demoralized and already relegated Bourgoin.
What will concern Biarritz, however, is that they have now lost six successive away games in the league, and Bourgoin might just have it in them to produce one last hurrah before disappearing from sight.
Top 14 League Table
Both sides started this match at a high tempo on Friday as they each tried to assert early dominance, but it was Castres who struck the first blow when full-back Teulet landed a straight-forward penalty on four minutes.
The metronomic full-back - nicknamed 'Robocop' - went on to add a second penalty on the quarter hour as he both extended his side's lead and also took his season's league tally to an impressive 300 points.
Castres continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession, but Biarritz made use of a rare foray into enemy territory when Argentine centre Marcelo Bosch slotted a 25th-minute drop-goal after several phases of pressure failed to break the home defence.
Teulet fell just short with a 50m+ effort shortly before the break, but his forwards earned him another pot at goal on 46 minutes and the 33-year-old duly obliged this time to stretch his team's lead to 9-3.
Three minutes later and Castres made the decisive break after this time opting for a penalty to touch instead of at goal. The hosts then got handsome reward for their boldness, with a perfect catch and drive from the lineout culminating with Uruguayan Rodrigo Capo-Ortega being pushed over for the try.
The 30-year-old lock had come on as an early substitute when Matthias Rolland was forced off in the sixth minute, and this was a crucial time to register his first league try of the season. Teulet duly added the extras and suddenly Castres were 16-3 to the good.
Biarritz inevitably came back at their hosts but their efforts appeared to be floundering on Castres' rock-like defence until a series of scrums eventually earned a close in penalty which France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili took quickly to send fly-half Julien Peyrelongue over with 11 minutes to play.
The 30-year-old used his strength to power over the line, as television evidence confirmed, and Yachvili then kicked the conversion to bring Biarritz back within six points - and on target for a crucial losing bonus.
Leading try and point-scorers in Top 14
But the Basques sensed something more as the momentum edged their way, and Yachvili set home hearts pounding when he subsequently landed a 73rd-minute penalty to make it 16-13. The visitors pushed on in search of a final flourish but Castres held out for a win that ensures they finished the regular league season with 13 wins from 13 at home this campaign.