Top 14: Round 9 review
Jules Plisson kicked all 21 of his side’s points as Stade Francais’ Top 14 resurgence continued.
After impressively beating table-topping Clermont 14-9 last week, the reigning champions’ mettle on the road was tested on Sunday, but, despite still sitting tenth in the table, they edged home courtesy of a 21-19 win at Grenoble.
Plisson was the undoubted star of the show, his three first-half penalties keeping the visitors in touch at 11-9 down after the hosts scored through two Jonathan Wisniewski three-pointers, ahead of a Peter Kimlin try on the half hour mark.
Stade hit the front for the first time on 55 minutes as Plisson took his haul to 12 points, before making it 15-11 with 29 minutes to play, but Wisniewski struck back for 14-15 within a minute.
However, Plisson’s metronomic kicking continued in the final quarter, two more goals giving the All Pinks a lead that they never surrendered, despite a tense finish after Anthony Hegarty’s late unconverted score.
Elsewhere, scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues scored a hat-trick of tries as Bodreaux-Begles thrashed promoted Pau 46-10 to move to within five points of top spot.
Two of Lesgourgues’ tries came in a dominant first half, alongside a try, two conversions and two penalties from Baptiste Serin, with the hapless visitors kept scoreless.
Nans Ducuing extended the hosts’ lead on 42 minutes before Lesgourgues completed his treble and Wayne Ole Avei got over late on, Serin with two conversions and Romain Lonca one, meaning a Cameron Pierce try, plus a penalty and a conversion from Thibault Daubagna, meant little in the end.
Meanwhile, league leaders Clermont remain at the Top 14 summit, but their lead was cut to a solitary point after rampant Toulon came away with an impressive 35-9 win in Auvergne.
Morgan Parra scored all the home side’s points at Stade Marcel Michelin with three penalties, but Toulon, on the back of an underwhelming European outing last week, ripped through the home defence at will scoring four tries.
Delon Armitage and Eric Escande scored in the first half, before a penalty try and Drew Mitchell score added an extra gloss to the scoreline. Escande was in fine form with the boot, kicking three conversions and three more penalties to finish the evening with 20 points to his name.
And newly second-placed Racing took full advantage of Clermont’s slip up and now sit a point adrift of first place after leapfrogging Toulouse courtesy of a 28-13 home win over their top four rivals.
After New Zealand legend Dan Carter, Racing’s latest big-name signing, was presented to his new fans, the home side took time to get into their stride, but Henry Chavancy’s try on the stroke of half-time, converted by Maxime Machenaud on top of his two earlier penalties, saw ’92 lead 13-3 at the break after a Toby Flood three-pointer mid way through the first period.
Dimitri Szarzewski and Arthur Bonneval traded unconverted tries either side of the hour mark, but that was as good as it got for the visitors as Chris Masoe’s late score, improved by Machenaud, sealed the points.
Further down the table, late heartbreak meant Burton Francis’ heroics with the boot for Agen weren’t enough as the second-bottom strugglers fell to a 23-18 home defeat at the hands of Castres.
Alex Tulou scored the first half’s only try with Rory Kockott adding the extras on the back of two penalties inside the first ten minutes, but two penalty goals from Francis kept the hosts in touch.
But the uncapped South African chipped away at that seven-point deficit with three penalty goals before the hour as Agen went 15-13 up, before his sixth goal of the day made it a five-point ball game.
However Julien Caminati broke home hearts with five minutes to play. His try, converted by Kockottt, turned the game on its head, and the visitors held on for a ‘get out of jail’ win at Stade Armandie.
But Agen’s bonus-point heroics came as unwelcome news to Oyonnax, who fell to the foot of the table after a 34-9 defeat at home to fifth-placed Brive.
Ex-Bristol man Nicky Robinson kicked Oyo’s points, six of which came in the first half, but scores in either half from from Petrus Hauman and a penalty try set the visitors on their way.
However it was Gaetan Germain who led the way, racking up an impressive 24 points through a try, two conversions and five penalty goals, to help his side to a comfortable win at Stade Charles-Mathon.
Finally, on Friday night, substitute Demetri Catrakilis kicked 20 points as sixth-placed Montpellier ensured they stayed within three points of top spot with a 25-20 win over La Rochelle on home turf.
Ben Mowen got the hosts’ only try as they were outscored by a two-try performance from the visitors, Afaesetiti Amosa and Gagi Bazadze with their efforts, but the boot of Catrakilis made sure of a win, the former Stormers man racking up three penalties in each half on top of a sole conversion.
That meant a penalty and a conversion from Zack Holmes, plus an identical haul from Jules Le Bail, proved fruitless for the now 11th-placed Rochelais.