Clermont keep Euro and French double hopes alive
TOP 14 WRAP: Clermont stayed on course for a French and European double when they edged Lyon 23-20 to move into second place in the Top 14 as La Rochelle confirmed their semifinal spot without even playing.
Clermont, who were missing a host of first-choice stars such as Aurelien Rougerie, David Strettle, Camille Lopez and Morgan Parra ahead of the May 13 European Cup final against Saracens, have 74 points.
However, they can be displaced on Sunday if Montpellier defeat league leaders La Rochelle.
Clermont's failure to claim a bonus point means that La Rochelle, already on 80 points, are guaranteed a semifinal place.
Lyon were in the ascendancy early on and went ahead when back row Deon Fourie scored one of his team's two converted tries in the 11th minute after Clermont wing Remy Grosso had been yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on.
But 22-year-old Fijian wing Alivereti Raka grabbed Clermont's only try on the quarter-hour mark with three penalties from Ludovic Radosavljevic and one successful kick from Argentie flyhalf Patricio Fernandez helping them to a 17-10 lead at the break.
Radosavljevic knocked over two more penalties in the second period while replacement prop Stephane Clermont scored a late converted try for Lyon whose play-off hopes were almost certainly ended.
"It was a good performance even if we were living on our nerves towards the end," said Clermont coach Franck Azema.
"We committed some youthful errors but showed a lot of character"
Meanwhile, Castres' Argentinan flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta orchestrated a six-try, 52-7 thrashing of Toulouse on Saturday that deprived the 19-time French championship winners a place in the play-offs for the first time since 1976.
Urdapilleta scored his team's fourth try and also contributed 22 points with his unerring boot in helping consign Toulouse to a ninth defeat in 10 matches that leaves them rooted in 12th position in the table, above only relegated clubs Grenoble and Bayonne.
The result saw Castres move provisionally up to fourth on 63 points, with their final regulation season match at Brive next weekend decisive for their progress to the season-ending play-offs.
Alex Tulou, for Castres, and All Black Luke McAlister, for Toulouse, each crossed for first-half tries.
But with Urdapilleta chipping away at the scoreboard, the floodgates soon opened in the second-half, Julien Caminati (2), Brice Mach and Julien Dumora all crossing the whitewash in a totally dominant, bonus-point performance by the home side.
Toulouse coach Ugo Mola, who took over from Guy Noves when the latter moved to the France job, said the result summed up a "complicated" season.
"Today we saw the difference between a team that still has something to play for and one which very definitely let go," the France fullback said.
"Pride has taken a hit. We're closer to shame than anything else, "
Castres 52 Toulouse 7
Pau 32 Brive 27
Bayonne 43 Grenoble 35
Lyon 20 Clermont 23
Bordeaux-Begles 13 Toulon 26
La Rochelle v Montpellier
Stade Francais v Racing 92