Castres extend unbeaten run in Top14

Castres extended their unbeaten run to a club record 10 matches on Saturday as they beat Montpellier 43-29 in a thrilling Top 14 encounter which saw nine tries run in.

Castres victory moved them up to fifth and among the top six clubs who contest the end of season play-offs.

Biarritz failed to reclaim a place among the top six though they gave leaders Toulouse a real run for their money before losing 23-19, leaving them still without a win in Toulouse in 10 years.

Their encounter — a rehearsal for a European Cup quarter-final — was played without many of the leading stars who are involved for their respective countries in the Six Nations championship.

Toulouse’s victory moved them onto 64 points, seven clear of Racing-Metro, who beat relegation-threatened La Rochelle 32-24 earlier on Saturday.

Castres and Montpellier played out a belter of a first-half which saw six tries scored, both sides touching down three times.

France Six Nations Grand Slam winning wing Marc Andreu scored two of Castres tries while fellow international and Grand Slam winner, backrow forward Fulgence Ouedraogo, who like Andreu has fallen out of favour with France coach Marc Lievremont, scored one of Montpellier’s.

The visitors had been dominated for large parts of the opening period but nevertheless stayed within touching distance of their opponents as they scored a try on the stroke of half-time, hooker Mickael Ladhuie going over.

Castres fullback Romain Teulet was in superb form.

Aside from creating Andreu’s two tries he also added two penalties to give them the edge, 23-19, at half-time to end a first-half which had also been costly for Montpellier as star Fijian wing Timoci Nagusa had to be stretchered off with a shoulder injury.

The hosts extended their lead with another try shortly after the resumption through centre Yoann Audrin which Teulet converted, but Montpellier refused to lie down and Nagusa’s replacement Pierre Berard scored a try which was converted.

However, Castres could finally breathe easier when Vasili Bost was sin-binned in the 71st minute and shortly afterwards they were awarded a penalty try, converted by Teulet, who added a penalty to assure them of victory.

Eric Bechu, Montpellier joint head coach with former France captain Fabien Galthie, was upset they had not even got a bonus point but was philosophical in defeat.

“We were in heaven after our win last weekend against Clermont, and today we are miserable, but that is rugby!”

Andreu said the whole game had been great fun.

“We just really enjoyed ourselves, both individually and collectively,” he said.

“Montpellier are a team after our own hearts, and they really punish you if you give them any space. But we are equally effective when we get the openings.”

Toulouse gave a second successive start to their mercurial fly-half Frederic Michalak, who said before the match that while he would love to agree a new contract with the club he was also keen if that failed to move to an unnamed Australian Super 15 side.

The 28-year-old 54-times capped star contributed eight points with his boot and also set up Toulouse’s first try for former France wing Cedric Heymans which cancelled out England World Cup winning back Ian Balshaw’s early try for the visitors.

However, Biarritz held a six point lead as the game entered the final 10 minutes only for Jean-Marc Doussain to give himself a late birthday present – he turned 20 on February 12th – by scoring the hosts second try.

Michalak’s replacement Nicolas Bezy converted to put them into the lead and the 21-year-old added a penalty four minutes from time to give them the hard-earned win.

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