Clermont beat Bayonne to lead Top 14 again

Clermont regained top spot in the Top 14 on Saturday, after dominating Bayonne 28-16, just hours after Stade Francais had temporarily gone top with a last gasp drop goal to win at Bordeaux.

At the Marcel-Michelin stadium, the 2010 champions broke the match open early with a pair of tries from Fijian flanker Peceli Yato during the first 12 minutes against an inexperienced Bayonne side who rested a number of first-choice players.

However the visitors pulled a try back from hooker David Roumieu just before half-time when Clermont were down to 14 men following the yellow card against lock Sebastien Vahaamahina for repeated fouls.

Clermont, who lost ten straight French championship finals before their lone success five years ago, took control after the break despite some dogged defending from Bayonne.

The only negative point for Clermont was their failure to pick up an offensive bonus point.

Earlier on Saturday, Stade Francais briefly went top, thanks to a Jules Plisson drop goal after the buzzer that gave them a 23-22 victory over Bordeaux-Begles.

Toulon have a chance to overtake the Paris club in the final match on Saturday, later at home to Brive, and also draw level with Clermont.

Elsewhere, Montpellier needed a late penalty to draw 15-15 at home to La Rochelle while Racing Metro defeated Grenoble 34-29 in a high-scoring affair in Paris and Castres edged Lyon 23-20.

Fly-half Plisson was the hero for Stade Francais, who won the last of their 13 French titles in 2007, while Bordeaux had to settle for a defensive bonus point which lifts them into a tie with Toulouse and Oyonnax in the battle for fifth and sixth spot, the two final play-off places.

“We had the intention of coming here and winning and we concentrated all week on certain aspects of our game to achieve that,” said Stade Francais coach Gonzala Quesada.

“We could have lost the game but it was very important for us to nail down the win. I’m very happy because it would have been very tough to lose this afternoon.

“I was sure the players would go for victory right until the final seconds and I know what kind of conditions they are capable of working in, their attitude, and the way they carry themselves so I was sure they had the right values,” continued Quesada.

“Plisson finished the phase of play with a magnificent drop but that would never have happened if we hadn’t kept the ball during the ten or eleven phases that helped us advance down the pitch and got us in drop zone territory. I’m proud that,” he concluded.

Oyonnax defeated Toulouse 9-3 on Friday to move fifth and boost their chances of making the six-team play-offs.

Oyonnax, Toulouse and Bordeaux are all on 45 points with eight matches to play.

The top two sides following the regular season qualify automatically for the semi-finals while teams finishing third to sixth meet in two knockout matches to decide the other last four places.

Bordeaux appeared to be heading for victory when back row forward Louis-Benoit Madaule plunged over for a try three minutes from time to pull the hosts level before an excellent conversion from Lionel Beauxis put them 22-20 in front.

First-half tries from Raphael Lakafia and Rabah Slimani had given Stade Francais a 17-12 half-time lead and helped build the platform for victory, while Bordeaux suffered only their second home defeat of the season.

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