Clermont keep Top 14 pressure on Toulouse

Clermont kept up the pressure on runaway Top 14 leaders Toulouse with a bonus-point 31-13 victory over Racing-Metro on Saturday.

Clermont have now amassed 59 points from 17 games so far this season, six points behind defending champions Toulouse, who shrugged off the absence of their internationals on Six Nations duty with a 20-15 win at Biarritz on Friday.

Clermont racked up four tries through impressive full-back Jean-Marcellin Buttin, Fijian centre Noa Seru Nakaitaci, and South African duo Brent Russell and Gerhard Vosloo.

Racing, who recently parted ways with former France No 8 Sebastien Chabal after the player fell out with coach Pierre Berbizier, could only manage a 78th-minute converted try from Francois Steyn in reply.

“We’re very happy to have taken the five points,” said Clermont assistant coach Franck Azema.

“We started well and that allowed us to take advantage very quickly. Despite the absence of our internationals, we know we can count on an extended squad.

“We remain in touch with Toulouse, we stay on course.”

Berbizier said he had been satisfied with his team’s second-half showing after a week where a lot of energy had been expended off the pitch with the fall-out from Chabal’s sacking.

“I saw Racing’s desire and spirit in the second period,” the former France scrum-half and coach said.

“We need to use that to rebuild and move on from what’s just happened.

“I want to focus on the future, concentrate on what’s ahead and rebuild, get back to work and refocus on the essential, what happens on the pitch.”

Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti added: “It’s not one man who will solve the problem, it’s not some players or the president, it’s a community.

“We have the structure and team to react, we haven’t got our backs against the wall…”

Toulon notched up a bonus-point 44-7 thrashing of Bordeaux-Begles, soon-to-depart Welsh prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts crossing for two of his side’s five tries with Bordeaux’s Samoan hooker Ole Avei in the sin-bin.

Former England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson was successful with all five conversions and also nailed three penalties for a 19-point haul as Toulon consolidated their third place on 51 points, seven ahead of Castres and Montpellier.

There was good news for Bayonne, who recorded a 26-20 win over visiting Stade Francais, missing Julien Dupuy, Pascal Pape, Dimitri Szarzewski, Sergio Parisse and Felipe Contepomi, to jump up into 11th place from bottom spot.

Lyon, whose game against Brive was cancelled along with the Agen v Castres clash, now occupy the 14th and last spot.

Friday’s other match saw Montpellier win 22-11 at home against Perpignan.

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