Stade Francais take the lead back in Top 14

Stade Francais took back the leading position in the French Top 14 standings when they beat former champions Castres 49-13 on an emotional day in Paris.

Tries from Fiji wing Waisea Nayacalevu, Jonathan Danty, a hat-trick from captain Sergio Parisse and a penalty try ensured Stade took the maximum five points form the encounter.

Clermont will have to do likewise at home to Brive on Saturday to retake the Top 14 leadership on points difference.

Before the match, both sides paid tribute to the Charlie Hebdo massacre victims by wearing “nou sommes tous Charlie” t-shirts (we are all Charlie).

Following a minute’s silence, the sparse crowd joined in the spirit with a resounding and emotional rendition of the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” as the game kicked off.

But thereafter it was back to business and the task of securing the points to remain top of the pile, the position Stade shared with Clermont at kick-off.

Castres struck first through a Julien Dumora penalty before Jules Plisson hit back two minutes later.

The Parisians moved into overdrive on the quarter hour mark with a simple move from the back of the scrum, No.8 Parisse feeding scrum-half Julien Dupuy who ran hard at the stretched Castres defence before his perfectly timed pass put Nayacalevu into the corner.

Plisson converted and then extended the hosts’ lead twice more in the first half hour to open up a 16-3 gap before flanker Piula Faasalele was sin-binned for not rolling away after Castres had already been warned for persistent infringing.

Within a couple of minutes, Castres looked to have been already punished as Stade sent centre Geoffrey Doumayrou over with a beautifully worked try down the left.

However, the referee referred it to the TMO who ruled it out for a forward pass.

But the reprieve was short-lived as Stade kept on the pressure and a clever miss-pass from Dupuy allowed barrel-chested centre Danty to power over under the posts, with Plisson converting.

Castres finally managed to stem the tide of 23 straight home points when Dumora slotted over a penalty to send the 2013 champions in at the break trailing 23-6.

And the Top 14 strugglers got a lifeline at the start of the second period when Plisson failed to gather an up-and-under, sparking a kick and chase that finished with wing Remy Grosso touching down and Dumora converting.

Stade regrouped and produced another wonderfully worked try with Nayacalevu and Djibril Camara setting up Danty for his second score.

Yet incredibly that too was referred to the TMO who adjudged, again much to the surprise of most observers, the centre to have lost control of the ball in touching down and knocking on.

Italian captain Parisse was seething and moments later the inspirational leader took on the Castres defence on his own and barged over for the hosts’ third try.

Castres continued to give away penalties and replacement prop Ramiro Herrera was shown a yellow card, with Parisse scoring his second try from a push-over scrum immediately afterwards.

Castres captain Rodrigo Capo Ortega was next into the sin-bin as the referee lost patience with Castres, now down to 13 men.

Stade did not let them off the hook, although Parisse was denied his hat-trick from another driving scrum as the referee awarded a penalty try.

Parisse deservedly got his hat-trick in the final minute, though, as following a long period of pressure Plisson chipped to the corner for his captain to touch down.

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