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Toulouse gave their Top 14 end-of-season play-off hopes a boost by beating Racing 92 14-3 on Sunday.
Racing, who rested New Zealand legend Dan Carter for the trip south amongst other regulars, appeared to be suffering a hangover from their European Champions Cup victory over defending champions Toulon last weekend and never appeared to get going.
The defeat left them fourth and in danger of missing out on a top two spot and bye into the play-off semi-finals after Montpellier recorded their first ever Top 14 win over defending champions Stade Francais.
Their 26-20 victory moved them back a point above Toulon into second, seven points behind leaders Clermont but four points ahead of Racing.
Fly-half Benjamin Dambielle kicked Racing into an early lead at the Ernest-Wallon stadium but Toulouse took control with a try from Yacouba Camara and then a penalty try just before the break, both being converted by scrum-half Sebastien Bezy.
The second period was scoreless but Toulouse pushed hard for the third try that would have earnt them an attacking bonus, while under-strength Racing never seriously threatened the home side’s tryline.
“The second half left us with a bad taste of missing out,” said Toulouse coach Ugo Mola.
“My team seemed affected by not having been at their best.
“It’s not so easy to avoid falling into the trap against understrength teams — it was either a lack of patience or lack of firepower that prevented us from killing off the match.”
In Paris, Jake White’s team earned a seventh consecutive league triumph, against a side that has struggled this season and is currently lying 12th having lost 14 of 21 games so far.
Since the creation of the Top 14 in 2005, Montpellier had lost nine times in the French capital, shipping an average of 35 points, but that changed at the Stade Jean Bouin without the visitors being in particularly brilliant form.
“They are champions now, they won that tournament last year. We’d never won before against Stade Francais in Paris since 2005,” said White, who nonetheless lamented the loss of an attacking bonus point due to Stade’s last minute try.
“I’m disappointed with the last action but if you’d have asked everyone before the match if they’d have been happy with the win, they’d have said yes.”
Montpellier fly-half Ben Lucas traded two first-half penalties with Stade counterpart Jules Plisson, visiting hooker Mickael Ivaldi scoring the half’s sole try.
Fiji flanker Akapusi Qera extended Montpellier’s lead in the second period with a second try off the back of another strong rolling maul.
Plisson scored three more penalties in an error-free kicking display to one from Benoit Paillaugue to keep Stade in the game.
Replacement scrum-half Paillaugue then crossed for a try two minutes from time that he also converted to make the game safe, Stade snatching a losing bonus point — and denied Montpellier an attacking one earned for scoring three more tries than the opponents — when Jeremy Sinzelle crossed for a five-pointer on full time.
“It’s tough. We gave away a lot of points and Montpellier were just waiting for that,” said Stade coach Gonzalo Quesada.
“Then, in other moments when we could have been smiling, we got nothing — that’s been the story of our season.”
In Saturday’s matches, the Armitage brothers, Delon (2) and Steffon, scored three tries between them as Toulon sealed a 25-9 bonus-point victory at Pau, while leaders Clermont saw off bottom side Agen 38-10.
Elsewhere, Hikairo Forbes scored the only try of the game and Zack Holmes kicked 17 points as La Rochelle continued their wonderful home form by edging past sixth-placed Bordeaux-Begles 22-15. Brive put four tries past relegation-destined Oyonnax in a 31-13 bonus-point win.
Castres moved level with Bordeaux in the final play-off spot on Friday by winning a gripping match at Grenoble 33-28, leaving their opponents six points adrift of the top six.
Gloucester club captain Greig Laidlaw will leave the English Premiership Rugby club at the end of the season to join French Top 14 club Clermont. Scotland captain Laidlaw joined...
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