Top 14: Berbizier fumes as Parra sends Clermont through

By Paul Eddison

Rugby union

Racing-Métro coach Pierre Berbizier has launched a vicious tirade against match officials after seeing his side fall just short of a veritable upset at Marcel Michelin.

The former France and Italy coach was outraged at linesman Christophe Berdos’ decision to intervene and recommend a harsh yellow card for second row Santiago Dellape, fifteen minutes from the end of the playoff encounter.

The Parisian visitors were always going to be up against it, playing in an arena where the hosts have only lost twice in two years; however it was Racing’s realism that seemed to be turning the match their way after an hour. Having been dominated for much of the first half, the visitors managed to score the only try of the encounter, as Jacques Cronje went over after good work from his forwards.

When Jonathan Wisniewski put Racing into the lead early in the second half, and then Francois Steyn thumped over an incredible 60m drop goal, Clermont looked like they were going to pay dearly for their profligacy when on the front foot.

Brock James’ continued difficulties from the kicking tee were not helping, but Morgan Parra, with a little help from the officials, was able to turn the tide the hosts’ way with a flawless five kicks from five, leading them to a 21-17 victory, and a semi final in Saint-Etienne next Saturday against Toulon and Jonny Wilkinson.

On Saturday eyes turned to Toulouse, where France’s most successful club tried to keep alive their hopes of a European and domestic double. After an incredible season, visitors Castres, lost their final three games to drop from first to fifth in the table.

As a result they faced the daunting task of winning away to deny Toulouse an unbelievable seventeenth straight semi-final.

Their hopes were crushed after just a quarter of an hour as first Maxime Médard, and then Vincent Clerc crossed the whitewash.

The ease with which Clerc powered past Romain Teulet and Marc Andreu on the way to the tryline was indicative of the difference between the two sides, as the hosts were able to step up a gear in a knockout game.

Clerc crossed again midway through the second half, and Yann David completed the comfortable victory with a try from short range with ten minutes to go. The hosts eventually ran out 35-12 winners, but they will know that they will face a much tougher task on Friday night as they travel to Montpellier to take on reigning champions Perpignan.

They may well have to go into that encounter without inspirational scrum half cum fly half, Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who tore a thigh muscle towards the end of the match, leaving the hosts with the unlikely half back pairing of Clerc at scrum half and Yannick Jauzion at fly half.

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