Stade push Perpignan into semis with Biarritz win

Stade Francais gave southern rivals Perpignan a huge boost on Saturday by beating Biarritz 22-18 here to end the Basques’ bid for a place in the semi-finals of the French Top 14 championship.


It means Biarritz, three-times French champions in the past decade, have a six-point deficit to Perpignan and can no longer catch the Catalans, who now join Stade, Clermont and Toulouse in the final four.


With their place in the final four already assured, Stade came into this match relaxed but in no mood to give their visitors any favours.


The Parisians grabbed their first points of what ultimately proved to be a mitigated encounter when Skrela kicked over a penalty in the sixth minute.


Only two minutes later Julien Arias pierced the Biarritz defence — the meanest in the league so far this season — to touch over, Skrela providing the conversion.


That proved to be Stade’s first and last try of the match, the rest of their tally coming from the four other penalties kicked by Juan Martin Hernandez.


Bizarrely, all three points scorers for Stade, except Hernandez, left the field after suffering respective injuries.


Skrela came off in the 11th minute with a thigh injury, Hernandez finished the match despite being diagnosed with an ankle injury and Arias went off in the 55th minute with a hip injury.


Dmitri Yachvili had reduced the score slightly with a penalty for Biarritz in the 10th minute, and by half-time the visitors were buoyed by the 13-11 scoreline following Jean-Baptiste Gobelet’s try in the 23rd minute and a great 50-yard penalty effort sent over by Yachvili.


But Stade’s dominant scrum frustrated Biarritz just after the restart when, inside a five-minute spell, the boot of Hernandez provided a further six points.


Hernandez battled through the pain to kick another penalty in the 78th minute, and despite Jacques Cronje touching over for Biarritz’s second try a minute later it proved too little too late for the visitors.


Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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