Post-strike Stade boost survival bid with win
TOP 14 SUNDAY WRAP: A week after their players ended a strike, Stade Francais took a big step towards Top 14 survival with a 17-11 victory over Toulon on Sunday that all but condemned Bayonne to relegation.
Stade are now 11 points clear of the relegation zone while Bayonne are 18 points adrift of safety with a maximum 20 points available.
Waisea Nayacalevu moved clear at the top of the try-scoring charts with his 11th score of the season for Stade while Mathieu Bastareaud crossed the whitewash for Toulon.
A week ago, Stade's Top 14 clash with Castres was postponed as their players were on strike in protest at a proposed merger with Parisian rivals Racing 92.
Head coach Gonzalo Quesada had said he was proud of his players' stance but that they now needed to refocus on survival.
In a turgid first half punctuated by three sin-binnings - two for Toulon and one for Stade - flyhalf Jules Plisson kicked four penalties to Francois Trinh-Duc's one to send the hosts in at half-time leading 12-3.
Fijian wing Waisea broke two weak tackles to finish off a Stade move in the corner on 48 minutes and give the Parisians, champions two years ago, a 17-3 advantage.
Two more yellow cards followed - a prop each - before Bastareaud bulldozed over the line through four tacklers.
Stade could have put the game to bed but Plisson missed three kickable penalties as well as the conversion.
Trinh-Duc slotted over his second penalty with 10 minutes left to close the gap to 17-11 but Toulon even missed out on the losing bonus.
It left the three-time European champions fourth but in a clutch of seven teams separated by six points and battling for a top six play-off spot.
A last gasp try from Fijian centre Sevanaia Galala after the final buzzer gave Brive a dramatic 28-25 win over Montpellier to keep their slim play-off hopes in check.
Fullback Gaetan Germain kicked 23 points to leave Brive four points off sixth-placed Pau.
But the late try cost third-placed Montpellier as they had looked set to earn a bonus point victory after tries from Alexandre Dumoulin, Timoci Nagusa and Bismarck Du Plessis had given them a 25-21 lead.
Instead they came away with just a losing bonus.
An even first half finished 12-11 in Brive's favour as Germain kicked four penalties while Montpellier scored the only try through Dumoulin.
Fijian wing Nagusa crossed early in the second half, with South African Francois Steyn converting, to give Montpellier the lead for the first time in the match.
But the faultless Germain kicked three more penalties to put Brive 21-18 ahead with 15 minutes to play.
Du Plessis's 76th minute try, driven over from close range after the powerful Montpellier forwards got on a roll, looked to have won the match as replacement flyhalf Willie du Plessis converted.
But Galala and Brive had the final say as the Fijian twisted his way over the line to win the game.
On Saturday, leaders La Rochelle became the first side to book a play-off spot with a 23-13 victory at Pau that put them 11 points clear at the top and 26 points ahead of seventh place.
Champions Racing 92 kept their hopes of reaching the play-offs alive after holding off a stirring late Clermont fightback to win 27-24 in a match relocated to Lille and played in front of more than 31 000 fans.
Racing are just three points off the top six and with a game in hand.
Bordeaux-Begles also kept in the mix, and stayed level on points with Racing, by beating Toulouse 22-11.
It left record four-time European champions Toulouse five points off the top six in 10th and facing the prospect of missing out on the play-offs for the first time in the professional era.
Bayonne's imminent return to the second division inched closer as they were thrashed 52-7 at Lyon.
French Top 14 results:
Brive 28-25 Montpellier
Stade Francais 17-11 Toulon
Racing92 27-24 Clermont
Grenoble 21-20 Castres
Lyon 52-7 Bayonne
Pau 13-23 La Rochelle
Bordeaux-Begles 20-11 Toulouse