Biarritz set up do or die Racing Top 14 clash

Biarritz’s hopes of making the end of season French Top 14 play-offs received a huge boost on Saturday when they demolished a demoralised Montauban side 42-13.

Victory lifted Biarritz onto 57 points, just three adrift of sixth-placed Racing-Metro, who they play in a fortnight’s time in the penultimate match of the league season.

Brive, too, stayed in the fight for the final play-off spot as they beat Bourgoin 25-15.

Toulon guaranteed their place in the top six with an easy 31-13 victory over Bayonne which sent them temporarily into pole position before they were knocked off top spot later by defending champions Perpignan who edged third-placed Castres 17-11.

With Toulouse having also wrapped up their play-off place on Friday with a 28-23 win over Racing-Metro it leaves just the sixth place to be scrapped over.

The dogfight for the top two spots, which allows those teams to skip the first round of the play-offs, saw Clermont, in fourth spot, lose 19-10 to Stade Francais at the Stade de France.

Stade’s win ended fears that they might end up in one of the two relegation places.

However, at present they would not be relegated even if they finished second from bottom – Albi are already assured of finishing last – as Montauban were relegated earlier this week because they failed to convince the league authorities they had the financial security required.

Stade came back from going 7-0 down with three first-half tries – two of them by France Grand Slam winning hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and the other by Australian rugby league convert Mark Gasnier.

“It’s virtually impossible now to make the top six, but this will do us good mentally,” said Szarzewski.

“We showed character and that was hugely important.” Clermont backrow forward Julien Bonnaire bemoaned the manner in which Clermont had failed to turn their possession into points.

“We monopolised possession for much of the match but we didn’t convert that into points,” said the France international.

Biarritz showed Montauban no favours with their Zimbabwean-born American international wing Takudzwa Ngwenya grabbing a couple of tries while scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili converted all six of the tries.

Montauban did not help their cause by being reduced to 13 men for the final five minutes of the first-half.

Scotland lock Scott Murray and Italian hooker Gregory Arganese were both sin-binned, the latter for a bout of fisticuffs with Biarritz prop Eduard Coetzee, who was also yellow-carded.

Toulon rewarded All Black great and former coach Tana Umaga with a standing ovation when he ran onto the pitch for his last regular season appearance for the side before he returns to New Zealand in June.

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson contributed 11 of the team’s points as they also ensured that they will compete in the European Cup next season.

French Top 14 results

Biarritz 42 Montauban 13
Brive 25 Bourgoin 15
Montpellier 62 Albi 17
Toulon 31 Bayonne 13
Stade Francais 19 Clermont 10
Castres 11 Perpignan 17

Played Friday
Toulouse 28 Racing-Metro 23

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