Toulouse book Top 14 play off spot

Toulouse booked their place in the end-of-season play-offs with a 22-11 win over French Top 14 leaders Clermont on Sunday.

Wins for Castres and Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday had put the pressure on Toulouse, the most successful club in France, but French internationals Louis Picamoles and Gael Fickou scored first-half tries while four separate players notched successful penalties to down the leaders.

Camille Gerondeau crossed the whitewash for Clermont while Australian Brock James scored two penalties, but the visitors went home empty-handed and could see their lead trimmed to as little as one point following Sunday evening’s clash between Montpellier and Toulon.

However, unless it ends in a draw, Clermont will almost certainly have secured a top-two finish by the end.

The victory, in what was likely veteran wing Vincent Clerc’s last match at the Ernest-Wallon stadium before joining Toulon next season, means Toulouse are only three points off second place.

While a top-two finish is a near impossibility with three teams tied on 77 points — two of which play later on Sunday — Toulouse could yet secure a top-four finish and a home quarter-final in the play-offs.

Clermont took the lead with a James penalty on three minutes and then extended it when down to 14 men — following former England wing David Strettle’s sin-binning — from a line-out catch and drive on 18 minutes as Gerondeau touched down.

Toulouse hit back through Picamoles, who picked up and drove over from the base of a five-yard scrum on 26 minutes in what may be his last home match for Toulouse before moving to Northampton next season.

New Zealander Luke McAlister scored a penalty and Fickou finished off a slick backs move to give Toulouse the lead, although a second James penalty made it 13-11 at the break.

Toulouse scored three unanswered penalties in the second period through Sebastien Bezy, Florian Fritz and Jean-Marc Doussain to stretch clear.

On Saturday, Bordeaux confirmed their place in next season’s European Champions Cup with a 34-7 win over Brive.

Bordeaux scored four tries to earn a bonus point but remain seventh after Castres won 25-20 at relegated Oyonnax later on Saturday.

Bordeaux and Castres — level on points — face a battle in next weekend’s final regular season matches to see which one finishes sixth and takes the final spot in the Top 14 play-offs.

On Friday night, European Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 kept alive their hopes of finishing the regular season in the top two with a 30-14 win at La Rochelle.

With just one match left for the Parisians, they remain outsiders for a top-two finish as they are level on points with Toulon and Montpellier, who both have an extra game to play.

French Top 14 result on Sunday:

Toulouse 22 Clermont 11

Playing later

Montpellier v Toulon (1845 GMT)

Saturday

Bordeaux-Begles 34 Brive 7

Stade Francais 28 Agen 26

Pau 29 Grenoble 12

Oyonnax 20 Castres 25

Friday

La Rochelle 14 Racing92 30

French Top 14 table

Clermont 25 17 1 7 678 423 13 83 – qualified for play-offs

Toulon 24 15 0 9 699 407 17 77 – qualified for play-offs

Montpellier 24 17 0 7 662 508 9 77 – qualified for play-offs

Racing 92 25 17 1 7 574 497 7 77 – qualified for play-offs

Toulouse 25 15 2 8 627 379 10 74 – qualified for play-offs

Castres 25 14 0 11 615 482 11 67

—————————————-

Bordeaux 25 14 2 9 549 459 7 67

Brive 25 12 1 12 494 535 7 57

La Rochelle 25 11 0 14 545 599 10 54

Grenoble 25 10 0 15 591 726 7 47

Pau 25 10 1 14 410 629 4 46

Stade Francais 25 9 0 16 529 596 5 41

—————————————-

Oyonnax 25 5 0 20 410 824 3 23 – relegated

Agen 25 4 0 21 508 827 6 22 – relegated

Note – Top six sides qualify for end-of-season play-offs, with top two going straight into semi-finals.

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