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Toulon go top on day of drama

Mon, 09 Sep 2013 09:15
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European champions Toulon leapfrogged Clermont to the head of the Top 14 table after a day of shocks in French league action.

Toulon secured Biarritz's place at the foot of the table with a 24-13 away victory, Australian Matt Giteau and Jonny Wilkinson sharing all the kicking points after Maxime Mermoz's opening try.

In the first shock of the day, Montpellier produced a door-bolt display to beat Toulouse 25-0 at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir for a bonus-point victory.

The two sides came into the match level on points but a brilliant solo try from Jonathan Pelissie, an opportunist effort from Francois Trinh-Duc and a breakaway try by Benoit Sicard proved too much for a flat Toulouse team.

Toulouse were riding on the back of an impressive 30-6 defeat of big-spending Racing Metro on Wednesday but despite a strong line-up they struggled to match Montpellier's intensity.

It was a third straight victory for Fabien Galthie's side, who had been bottom of the table after two matches, following a home draw with Toulon and then a 19-12 defeat at lowly Biarritz.

Toulon finish the weekend on 17 points with Montpellier on 16 and Clermont now third and a further point back.

Long-time Toulouse coach Guy Noves called his side's performance a "kind of non-match" lacking any commitment.

"We tried to run it round too much in the first half in a bid to cause Montpellier problems," Noves said.

"We reacted, to a degree, in the second-half, but we conceded two tries and were punished. The score perfectly reflects the match."

Noves added: "We'll have to learn our lessons from this and acknowledge that it's increasingly tough. We have to react quickly.

"Not scoring any points [for the first time since 2008] is not important because we could have kicked some penalties."

Montpellier coach Mario Ledesma, the former Argentina international, was delighted.

"We had a series of three complicated matches," he said. "And we did not expect to take an attacking bonus point from Toulouse."

In the late game in Paris, Stade Francais outplayed heavyweights Clermont 23-16, Italian No 8 Sergio Parisse leading from the front at their newly-refurbished Jean Bouin stadium as they climb to fourth.

In an often bad-tempered match, impressive full-back Hugo Bonneval and winger Julien Arias crossed for Stade, with Clermont's sole five-pointer coming from lock Julien Pierre, Australian fly-half having a shocker with the boot.

"We cleared a massive hurdle today," said Stade scrum-half Jerome Fillol.

"We have given ourselves assurances, and that will give us a spark and show that we have the potential to go much further."

Clermont coach Vern Cotter was not left too disheartened by the result, praising his players and calling it a "good match for a third one in a week".

The two newly-promoted sides from the ProD2, Oyonnax and Brive, both also secured wins in the third match played by teams in a hectic eight-day period.

Oyonnax were victors over no less than reigning Top 14 champions Castres to move into fifth place in the table.

"It's a fantastic win which shows the spirit of the squad," beamed Oyonnax centre Pierre Aguillon.

Brive were 17-10 victors over Bayonne, while Racing-Metro beat Perpignan 19-16 and Grenoble edged Bordeaux-Begles 21-14 in the other games.

French Top 14 results on Sunday:
Biarritz 13 Toulon 24
Brive 17 Bayonne 10
Grenoble 21 Bordeaux-Begles 14
Montpellier 25 Toulouse 0
Oyonnax 19 Castres 9
Racing-Metro 19 Perpignan 16
Stade Francais 23 Clermont 16

French Top 14 standings (under headings played, won, drawn, lost, points for, points against, bonus points, total points):
Toulon - 5 - 3 - 1 - 1 - 175 - 89 - 3 - 17
Montpellier - 5 - 3 - 1 - 1 - 128 - 94 - 2 - 16
Clermont - 5 - 3 - 0 - 2 - 150 - 90 - 3 - 15
Stade - Francais - 5 - 3 - 0 - 2 - 115 - 103 - 2 - 14
Oyonnax - 5 - 3 - 0 - 2 - 93 - 111 - 0 - 12
Castres - 5 - 2 - 0 - 3 - 124 - 82 - 4 - 12
Racing-Metro - 5 - 3 - 0 - 2 - 80 - 110 - 0 - 12
Grenoble - 5 - 3 - 0 - 2 - 87 - 126 - 0 - 12
Perpignan - 5 - 2 - 0 - 3 - 125 - 114 - 3 - 11
Toulouse - 5 - 2 - 0 - 3 - 114 - 103 - 3 - 11
Bordeaux-Begles - 5 - 2 - 0 - 3 - 107 - 127 - 2 - 10
Bayonne - 5 - 2 - 0 - 3 - 83 - 143 - 2 - 10
Brive - 5 - 2 - 0 - 3 - 92 - 136 - 1 - 9
Biarritz - 5 - 1 - 0 - 4 - 75 - 120 - 2 - 6

AFP

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