Clermont edge out Toulouse to lead Top 14

Perennial chokers Clermont went top of the Top 14 standings on Sunday after beating Toulouse 16-15 in a thrilling encounter.

Clermont – 10 times beaten finalists in the championship final – were behind for most of the match in Toulouse, the hosts having scored two first-half tries by Shaun Sowerby and France winger Vincent Clerc.

However 15 minutes from time the visitors – who rested several of their first choice stars including Aurelien Rougerie – struck with their only try of the match by Tasesa Lavea which was converted by Morgan Parra.

Toulouse had their chances to win the match but the mercurially gifted Frederic Michalak failed with a last gasp penalty.

Clermont moved top courtesy of a better points difference than previous leaders Castres while a defensive bonus point saw Toulouse move into third also on better points difference above defending champions Perpignan, who have a game in hand.

Clermont captain Julien Pierre said that his side had answered their doubters.

“We felt that no-one really believed in us and that with the European Cup match coming up (next weekend) we would let this one go,” he said.

“I have to say that even when we were behind I thought we would win.” Toulouse’s excitable manager Guy Noves was disappointed both by the result and by the refereeing.

“It feels like we have had our hair pulled,” said Noves.

“This referee was in charge of our match against Toulon and that was a pantomime in itself with the two cards for Dusautoir and Nyanga.”

France international fly-half Lionel Beauxis kicked 20 points as Stade Francais got a welcome 25-15 victory over another out of form French rugby giant Biarritz at the Stade de France on Saturday.

Beauxis was in imperious form as he converted the only try of the match by centre Mathieu Bastareaud while Biarritz’s former French international Dimitri Yachvili kicked 12 of his side’s points in what was a scrappy encounter.

On Saturday Castres golden run came to an abrupt halt as they lost 15-0 away at improving Montpellier, who gained the scalp of Stade Francais 10 days ago.

On Friday Perpignan had returned to winning ways after a poor run with a 31-12 win over Racing Metro.

The Catalan side bounced back from their recent European Cup exit as they handed Racing-Metro a second straight loss, the club having last weekend seen a nine-match winning streak ended by Bourgoin.

Stade’s victory came after a series of poor results and Bastareaud admitted that the pressure had been on.

“It has been a bit hot and a bit tense this week,” said Bastareaud.

“We have to continue to pull together and work hard to get sixth place,” he added referring to making the top six which at least gets them into the play-offs for the championship semi-finals.

In other matches Toulon rebounded from their 39-3 humbling last weekend by Clermont to beat Montauban 18-7, scoring two tries and with England star Jonny Wilkinson scoring eight points with the boot.

Brive’s good run continued and took them further away from the relegation zone as they followed up last Sunday’s victory over Perpignan with a 17-15 victory – England international back Jamie Noon scoring the second of the visitors tries – away at Albi, who look almost certain to be relegated.

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