Toulouse start to pull away from Top 14 field

Toulouse opened up a six-point lead at the top of the French Top 14 on Sunday after a hard-fought 23-16 win at home over Castres.

Toulouse had been assured of holding their advantage before kick-off after second-placed Montpellier were earlier beaten 28-16 by third-placed Racing-Metro.

The defeat was bitter for Castres, who have not won in Toulouse since 1995 and had come into the game brimming with ambition after a five-match unbeaten run.

Full-back Maxime Medard opened for Toulouse after just five minutes as the Top 14’s top scorer touched down his eleventh try of the season.

But Castres kept in touch with two penalties off the boot of Romain Teulet before Marc Andreu touched down for the vistors and Teulet converted to lead 7-13 after 20 minutes.

Toulouse battled back and thanks to David Skrela levelled 13-13 before the break.

Little separated the sides and a yellow card handed out to Castres flanker Ibrahim Diarra after 61 minutes for repeated fouls would prove the decider as Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir pushed through a try which gave them a 23-16 lead.

Toulouse held their advantage until the final whistle and maintained their unbeaten run at home, as Castres drop two places to sixth.

Castres back Teulet rued the yellow card. “It was the turning point of the match. That undermined us because I think overall we were up for it,” he said.

“It’s a pity to die like that because given the showing of Toulouse we could have done something this evening.”

Toulouse backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde added: “It’s an important victory. We knew this match would be complicated and it proved to be. But we managed to bounce back every time we got into difficulty.”

Earlier Racing-Metro pulled level on 45 points with Montpellier as champions Clermont, a further two points back in fourth, beat tailenders Bourgoin 34-9.

Racing-Metro quickly opened up a 20-3 lead on Montpellier.

Tries from Fijian winger Albert VuliVuli (38), Mirco Bergamasco (41) and Sireli Bobo (48) and 13 points off the boot of Jonathan Wisniewski allowed Racing avenge their 19-36 defeat at Montpellier and make up for their 6-6 draw against Brive on Wednesday.

England star Jonny Wilkinson helped Toulon bounce back from their midweek upset at Bayonne as he kicked 18 points in their 28-26 success over another Basque club Biarritz.

Toulon were trailing 14-16 at the break after Ian Balshaw touched down for Biarritz after five minutes, but the hosts came back with four tries including two from New Zealand winger Rudi Wulf (36, 65), Jeremy Sinzelle (46) and Gabriele Lovobalavu (75).

Toulon head for the outskirts of Paris next Sunday where they take on Racing-Metro.

Perpignan, meanwhile, continue their slow progress towards the top half of the table after a hard fought 23-16 win at home against Brive as Agen scored precious points in their battle against relegation by beating Bayonne 21-3.

Top 14 Results

Agen 21 Bayonne 3
Clermont 34 Bourgoin 9
Perpignan 23 Brive 16
Toulon 38 Biarritz 26
La Rochelle 26 Stade Francais 26
Racing-Metro 28 Montpellier 16
Toulouse 23 Castres 16

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