Stade survive Brive scare at home in Top 14

Stade Francais held on to their unbeaten record at home on Sunday despite a scare and missing out on a bonus point in a 20-17 victory over Brive in French Top 14 action.

The Parisians remain third with 35 points from 12 games, two points behind reigning French and European champions Toulon, who defeated arch-rivals Clermont 27-19 to move top on Saturday.

Clermont are one point behind Toulon in second with Racing-Metro fourth on 33 points after a 14-9 success at struggling 2013 winners Castres.

Brive failed to build on consecutive victories over Castres and Montpellier, but a bonus point nevertheless gives them a two-point margin on the first relegation spot.

“Today was complicated, we lacked rhythm, with the return of the internationals, we lacked a lot of fluidity. We couldn’t finish off certain actions,” said Stade Francais coach Gonzalo Quesada.

“Without being able to do everything we planned, we nevertheless scored three tries which gave us a good advantage going into the second half,” he continued.

“We weren’t able to maintain this slight domination, but we came up against a good Brive side. These four points mean a lot in our championship.”

Quesada called up all his internationals who had competed in the autumn Tests, apart from lock Pascal Pape, who came on at the end of the game for Alexandre Flanquart.

And the hosts were first off the mark following a spectacular solo run by Fijian winger Waisea Vuidravuwalu after 11 minutes which defied Brive’s Tongan fullback Alfie Mafi and Fijian Benito Masilevu.

But Brive fought back to 5-6 thanks to two penalties off the boot of Gaetan Germain before both teams played 10 minutes with 14 men after props Damien Jourdaine and Sakaria Taulafo were sinbinned.

The hosts regained the initiative after a Mafi error, which was punished by a Raphael Lakafia try (10-6) on the half hour mark and Stade pulled further ahead minutes later with another try in the corner from South African fly-half Meyer Bosman (17-6).

The Parisians took an 11-point advantage into the break, although Mafi came close to scoring Brive’s first try just after the interval but Julien Dupuy defended well.

It was finally Georgian Karlen Ashieshvili who came through for a Brive try on 74 minutes with a fourth Germain penalty two minutes later narrowing the gap and allowing Brive return home with a point.

On Saturday, in an intense top-of-the-table clash at the Allianz Riviera in Nice, Toulon beat Clermont largely thanks to three tries — from New Zealand winger David Smith (14, 73) and Maxime Mermoz (37) — with the France centre also instrumental in two decisive passes.

The game lived up to expectations as the champions had trouble pulling ahead of a tenacious Clermont, who scored two tries from Fritz Lee (31) and Aurelien Rougerie (60), and only caved in following the second late Smith try.

Elsewhere, Grenoble are just one point behind Racing-Metro in fourth after a 25-22 win ended hosts’ Toulouse’s run of six straight victories in all competitions.

Bordeaux, meanwhile, failed to bounce back from their first defeat of the season at home to Toulouse, losing 28-23 at Oyonnax, despite leading for most of the match.

Bordeaux failed to score in the second half and were in the end frustrated by Argentine centre Benjamin Urdapilleta who accounted for 23 of the hosts points, after Ivory Coast winger Yves Donguy had opened the scoring with his 11th minute try.

Montpellier remain locked in their current crisis which resulted in forwards coach Mario Ledesma resigning, losing 23-20 at Lyon.

Fabien Galthie’s side were deprived of victory through Fijian Mosese Ratuvou five minutes from time, suffering a fifth straight loss in all competitions.

They remain in eighth position with Lyon moving off the bottom of the table, to sit 11th ahead of La Rochelle and Castres.

In a bottom-of-the-table clash, La Rochelle and Bayonne played out a 19-19 draw.

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