Toulouse hold on to Top14 lead despite smash

Stade Francais stayed firmly in the hunt for a Top 14 play-off place on Saturday as they outclassed leaders and European champions Toulouse 31-3 at the Stade de France.

Despite the defeat Toulouse stayed top because second-placed Montpellier were held 12-12 at home to 2009 champions Perpignan, who are struggling to even make the top six.

Racing-Metro could move to within a point of Toulouse should they beat Toulon, and take a bonus point, in Sunday’s high-profile clash.

Julien Arias scored his fifth try of the season when he profited from a reckless pass by Vincent Clerc, who missed intended target Clement Poitrenaud, and the Stade winger kicked ahead to touch down.

Julien Dupuy converted from wide out on the left to give the hosts a 10-3 advantage but they suffered a blow when Englishman Ollie Phillips was yellow carded in the 26th minute for a late tackle on Cedric Heymans.

However, Stade extended their lead despite being a man down as Dupuy slotted over a penalty in the 33rd minute and the former Leicester Tigers star added another three points shortly before the break to give them a 16-3 half-time lead.

Dupuy added another penalty shortly after half-time and then the hosts hit the European champions with a killer blow as centre Mathieu Bastareaud scored an excellent try created by former France fly-half Lionel Beauxis to give them a 24-3 lead with half an hour to play.

Toulouse never threatened to get back in the match as they produced an untypical listless performance and it was no surprise when England star James Haskell added a third try with eight minutes remaining – Dupuy converted to make it 31-3.

Stade Francais coach Michael Cheika said that it was a good win even if Toulouse had rested several of their first choice players.

“It has been a good day, we have had worse this season,” said the Australian, who took on the job after a successful spell in charge of Leinster.

“I believe it is our best defensive performance of the season. With this mentality, we can be really competitive.”

His counterpart at Toulouse Guy Noves bemoaned Clerc’s wild pass and his side’s lack of discipline but conceded the better side had prevailed.

“It is a victory which reflects the difference in level today between Stade Francais and Toulouse,” he said.

Elsewhere crisis-ridden outfit Bourgoin slipped ever nearer the drop as they were destroyed 44-14 at home by fellow strugglers La Rochelle.

Benjamin Dambielle contributed 24 points as La Rochelle inflicted more pain on the hosts, who have only five points after 16 matches and left Bourgoin back row forward Anthony Forrest deeply depressed about their prospects of survival.

“That was the match of death and we weren’t up to it,” said Forrest.

“We received a quick blow to the head by being led really early on by a team who hit us on the counter attack effectively when overrall we had more of the possession.”

La Rochelle’s victory saw them move out of the relegation places as they passed Agen, who were at the receiving end of a 65-22 hammering by Biarritz while Brive had emerged from the bottom two on Firday after beating champions Clermont 29-22.

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