Top 14 Rugby weekend wrap Round 9

Australian fly-half Brock James contributed almost half the points in Clermont’s 41-0 mauling of bottom club Biarritz in the French Top 14 on Saturday to put the defending champions back on top of the table.

They regained the summit from Castres, who had gone provisional top on Friday courtesy of their losing bonus point despite having their seven match winning run ended in a 23-19 defeat to Racing Metro.

Clermont followed up last week’s 39-3 annihilation of 2009 titlewinners Perpignan in style against struggling Biarritz, with James’s third-minute try opening the floodgates.

Wesley Fofana added another shortly after and the French centre followed up again after the break with Italy World Cup centre Gonzalo Canale and South African flanker Gerhard Vosloo also crossing for Clermont.

James added three conversions and two penalties.

Clermont coach Vern Cotter said: “There’s a really strong spirit in this team and I was very happy at the way they started the game. It’s encouraging ahead of the start of the European Cup in a fortnight.”

The only black cloud on an otherwise sunny day for the champions was the left knee injury suffered by French prop Thomas Domingo, meaning he faces a six month spell on the sidelines.

This was Clermont’s eighth win out of nine matches and it moved them up to 35 points, three clear of Toulouse, who overtook Castres for second spot with an 18-15 defeat of Stade Francais.

Toulouse beat Stade Francais 18-15 largely thanks to their second try, scored by Yves Donguy in the final quarter of an hour to leave Stade still looking for their first points away from home this term.

Castres are on 31 points in third with Toulon (28) in fourth after beating Brive 18-3 at home.

This was the perfect result for new coach Bernard Laporte on his first home match since taking over from Philippe Saint-Andre, who has replaced Marc Lievrement as coach of France after the World Cup.

Suffering no ill effects from England’s nightmare campaign in New Zealand fly-half Johnny Wilkinson was responsible for all of Toulon’s points with six penalties.

Elsewhere, Bayonne edged Perpignan 18-16, while the fixture between Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon was postponed after an outbreak of an outbreak of parotiditis, a salivary gland infection, at Lyon.

Bayonne, reinforced by the return of Cedric Heymans from World Cup duty with France, dominated Perpignan to lead 15-3 shortly after the break. The Catalans muscled their way back into contention but Bayonne held on.

Heymans remarked: “I wanted to play today to help my teammates even if I only had one training session since coming back. I’m pleased we got the four points.”

Later Saturday Montpellier host Agen.

On Friday Fiji centre Verimi Vakatawa scored a try three minutes from time to help Racing Metro end Castres’ long winning run.

Vakatawa’s 77th-minute try was converted by full-back Gaetan Germain as Racing ended their three-match losing run.

The sides had been locked at 13-13 at the interval with Racing fly-half Sebastien Descon crossing in the 21st minute before Castres lock and skipper Chris Masoe replied four minutes later.

Romain Teulet, who missed Castres’ last two games, kicked his side’s other 14 points.

French Top 14 results on Saturday:
Clermont 41 Biarritz 0
Bayonne 18 Perpignan 16
Toulon 18 Brive 3
Bordeaux-Begles v Lyon OU – postponed
Toulouse 18 Stade Francais 15

Playing later (GMT)
Agen v Montpellier (1845)

Castres 19 Racing Metro 23


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