Castres roll on in Top14 as Stade stutter

Castres consolidated their lead of the French Top 14 with a six-try drubbing of Albi on Sunday as Stade Francais stuttered to a drab 6-6 draw with Montauban.

Clermont moved into second place with an impressive five-try 39-3 dismantling of Toulon, for whom England outside-half Johnny Wilkinson (pictured) was replaced at half-time after complaining of back pains.

Outplayed up-front, Toulon conceded tries to Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore, outstanding scrum-half Morgan Parra, winger Julien Malzieu and late replacement Kevin Senio, as well as a penalty try.

“We built up a good game and ended up dominating,” said Clermont captain Aurelie Rougerie. “We’ll keep on working – it’s a long season ahead.”

Racing-Metro, who last lost in September, were denied a 10th successive win by a doughty Bourgoin, who triumphed 18-17 in the French capital.

Racing, who are now fourth, saw a late penalty from Springbok centre Francois Steyn and a last-gasp Jonathan Wisniewski drop-goal both drift wide and Pierre Berbizier’s team had to be content with a defensive bonus point.

Former European champions Toulouse moved into third place with a 15-13 win at second-bottom Bayonne who scored the only try through winger Benjamin Fall.

All of Toulouse’s points came from the trusty boot of fly-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

Fifth-placed Perpignan, the defending champions, suffered a shock 29-9 defeat to Brive, for whom England centre Rikki Flutey made his comeback from injury and France international full-back Alexis Palisson was key -scoring a try, a conversion and five penalties for a personal haul of 23 points.

Georgian prop Davit Kinchagishvili scored the opening try for the hosts while the visitors’ abrasive Romanian prop Marius Tincu was in the sin bin.

South African replacement centre Ronnie Cooke rounded off Brive’s comprehensive win with a try seven minutes from time, with Perpignan only managing three penalties from ex-Natal Sharks outside-half Steve Meyer.

“We showed a lot of heart today,” said Palisson. “We wanted to rebound from the defeat at Clermont.

“We gave everything and I think Perpignan had a hand in our success -they let us play the ball which gave us the chance of snatching the attacking bonus point.”

Perpignan manager Jacques Brunel rued the loss of his midfield pairing of Maxime Mermoz and David Marty through injury.

“That disrupted us, but with 20 minutes to go we were only five points down,” Brunel said, adding that there would be “a lot more chances” to seal some wins before the season’s end.

Castres, fresh from putting Montauban to the sword last week, again turned on the style in their demolition of bottom-placed Albi.

The home side scored through Marc Andreu, a Cameron McIntyre double, former All Black Chris Masoe, Iosefa Tekori and a penalty try as Albi crumbled after Sebastien Pages was sent off in the 57th minute for violent play.

Struggling Stade Francais, desperate for a victory to help ensure participation in next season’s European Cup, could only manage to slug out a dour draw with Montauban on a heavy pitch.

Two Lionel Beauxis penalties cancelled out a penalty and drop-goal by Cedric Rosalen in what turned out to be a forward slug-fest with neither side gaining the ascendancy.

Biarritz sealed a much-needed win over Montpellier, scoring four tries to one in a 26-10 victory that saw them up to sixth spot.

Rejuvenated former England full-back Iain Balshaw and American winger Takudzwa Ngwenya crossed for touchdowns either side of a Arnaud Mignardi brace.

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