Michalak masterclass saves Toulon
Sun, 30 Mar 2014 08:35
It's better to be top than elsewhere
Frederic Michalak put on a masterclass Saturday as he scored 27 points in Toulon's 32-28 French Top 14 win over Toulouse.
The maverick flyhalf scored the second of the European champions' two tries and played a major role in the first. His trusty boot was also responsible for two conversions and six penalties.
The win left Toulon in second place in the table, one point behind new leaders Montpellier who went top after a six-try, 43-27 win over Bayonne.
Defeat left Toulouse just outside of the top six play-off places with three matches of the regular season left to play.
"It was a good match ahead of the European Cup quarter-finals next week," said Toulon backs coach Pierre Mignoni.
"It could have gone one way or the other."
Previous leaders Clermont slipped to third in the standings after their 26-24 loss at Brive on Friday.
Defending champions Castres are in fourth spot after being held 34-34 at relegated Biarritz.
Racing Metro are fifth thanks to a 32-22 victory at Stade Francais with Bordeaux, 23-5 winners over Perpignan, currently occupying the sixth and final play-off place.
Michalak, playing in front of 38,000 at Marseille's Stade Velodrome and enjoying a start in the absence of Jonny Wilkinson, had seen his team fall behind to a fifth-minute converted try from Toulouse scrumhalf Jean-Marc Doussain.
But having succeeded with an early penalty, Michalak was instrumental in Toulon's first try.
His clever dummy created enough space for Australian winger Drew Mitchell to break the line and free Maxime Mermoz for the score.
Michalak converted and added two more penalties as Toulon edged 16-13 ahead at the interval with Toulouse counterpart Lionel Beauxis keeping his side in touch.
Toulouse lost experienced Samoan prop Census Johnston late in the first half with a serious-looking neck injury, a worrying setback a week ahead of their European Cup quarter-final against Munster.
Johnston left the stadium with his neck in a surgical brace.
Michalak and Beauxis matched each other for penalties after the interval as Toulon edged to a 25-22 lead.
But the star Toulon fly-half grabbed a crucial second try in the 67th minute.
Gillian Galan lost control of the ball under pressure from Mitchell which allowed it to break free.
Michalak, who could now be favourite to start next week's European Cup clash with Leinster, hacked the ball forward, winning a sprint to the line to score.
His conversion was successful with two late penalties from Beauxis proving too little too late for Toulouse.
Johnston was not the only injury casualty for Toulouse after French international back row forward Louis Picamoles was also forced out in the second half with a hip problem.
Montpellier put on a six-try show to beat Bayonne with Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa celebrating a hat-trick of tries.
But coach Fabien Galthie warned against complacency at being top of the table.
"It's better to be top than elsewhere, but we will be back at work on Monday. Nothing has been won yet," he said.
Castres were held at Biarritz who grabbed a share of the spoils through a converted penalty try four minutes from time.
Racing Metro took the few chances they had to edge Stade Francais 32-22 in the Paris derby.
Racing scored three tries, with one conversion and five penalties from Irish fly-half Jonathan Sexton, while Stade had two tries from Fiji winger Waisea Vuidravuwalu to go with three penalties and a drop goal.
Toulonnais 32-28 Stade Toulousain
Biarritz Olympique 34-34 Castres Olympique
Union Bordeaux-Bègles 23-5 Perpignan
Montpellier Hérault Rugby 43-27 Aviron Bayonnais
Oyonnax 40-13 Grenoble
Stade Français 22-32 Racing Métro 92
Brive-Corrèze 26-24 ASM Clermont
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