Castres, Lyon, Toulon get Top 14 victories

Stuggling French rugby giants Biarritz’s relegation worries increased on Saturday after a 29-23 defeat to Castres in their Top 14 clash.

Castres kicker Romain Teulet contributed 16 points and in-form winger Romain
Martial two tries with Biarritz’s only consolation taking a defensive bonus
point which at least allowed them to stay off the bottom.

That dubious honour fell to Bayonne, who were thrashed 50-10 by Toulon after
they were reduced to 14 men in the first-half when Yoann Huget was sent-off
for headbutting an opponent.

Lyon came off the bottom, joining Biarritz on 24 points a point ahead of Bayonne,
with a surprise 19-11 win over Agen.

Biarritz fell behind to an early penalty by Teulet, but looked to have taken
the initiative themselves when Ian Balshaw set up flanker Benoit Guyot, who
broke three tackles to run in the try from 35 yards out.

Dimitri Yachvili converted to make it 7-3 but poor Biarritz defending was to
cost them dear on the stroke of half-time as Teulet passed to Martial, who should
have been brought down by Julien Peyrelongue but instead he brushed him aside
easily and ran in under the posts.

Teulet converted for a 10-7 half-time lead.

The second-half saw both sides’ fortunes swing back and forth as first Biarritz
went back into the lead after a try by Pelu Taele-Pavihi, set up by a nice pass
from Damien Traille, with Yachvili converting.

However, a penalty by Teulet and then a second try for Martial, converted by
the fullback, sent Castres 20-14 ahead before a Yachvili penalty reduced the
gap to three points and the two kickers exchanged penalties to leave Castres
leading 23-20 with just over 10 minutes remaining.

Teulet and team-mate Rory Kockott slipped over two more penalties to give Castres
the breathing space they needed with Traille kicking a drop goal one minute
before time to at least ensure they left with a point.

Biarritz coach Serge Milhas said that he was worried by the lack of spirit
in the side.

“We took a point here but we have regrets because we could have just as
easily taken three more,” he said.

“We are committing small errors which are costing us dearly when we play
a match of this intensity.”

Toulon and Bayonne had an explosive first-half, with a brawl seeing blighted
France wing Huget – who missed the World Cup as he served a ban for missing
three dope tests – receiving a straight red card for headbutting a Toulon player
while the hosts’ volatile centre Mathieu Bastareaud was sin-binned for punching
Renaud Boyoud.

None of this affected former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who kicked 25
of their points – five conversions and five penalties.

Toulon made hay in the second-half with their one man advantage, running in
five tries including two from former England international flanker Steffon Armitage,
as they gave president Mourad Boudjellal something to smile about after he was
banned for 130 days for lurid language about the level of refereeing in the
Top 14.

Boudjellal made do by watching the match from the roof on top of the players

Wilkinson said the score did not reflect the tightness of the contest which
he said was altered once Huget was sent from the pitch.

“We are still third but we can’t continue to produce performances that
get us by by the skin of our teeth,” he said.

Later, leaders Toulouse made light of missing several key players – who were
rested ahead of France’s Six Nations opener against Italy next Saturday – in
beating Racing-Metro 19-13 at the Stade de France.

French Top 14 results on Saturday:
Castres 29 Biarritz 23
Lyon 19 Agen 11
Brive 17 Perpignan 9
Toulon 50 Bayonne 10
Racing-Metro 13 Toulouse

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