Top 14: Stade Francais humiliated by Toulouse
The Sport Review rounds up all of the weekend’s action from France’s Top 14.
Stade Francais suffered a humiliating 29-0 defeat at the hands of Toulouse in front of a 78,000 strong crowd at the Stade de France. The battle between the two most successful sides in French club rugby was an incredibly one sided affair as Toulouse managed to dominate all parts of the game, in particular at the set piece and the break down.
The worrying thing for the Parisians is that Toulouse never really got into top gear, but still had enough to embarrass their hosts, for whom Mathieu Bastareaud was the only player to come out of the game with his reputation intact.
Toulouse struggled to make the most of their possession and territorial dominance in the first half, and had only three David Skrela penalties to show for their efforts. However in the second half, they stepped it up a gear and first the very impressive Gregory Lamboley touched down, twisting through some flimsy Parisian defence, followed by replacement Census Johnston who went over from short range.
This defeat leaves Stade Francais in a perilous position as they look to reach the top six, synonymous with the play-offs in the new format of the Top 14. At the moment they lie six points behind their city rivals Racing-Metro, and with a tough run-in, the chances of them reaching the play-offs would appear slim at best.
For Toulouse, things look much brighter as they sit fourth, and still within striking distance of the top two places. However, the elation of victory will have been somewhat dented by the serious injury suffered by scrum half Frederic Michalak. The mercurial talent was stretchered off in the second minute of the game with what has since been confirmed as torn cruciate ligaments, and will be out of the game for a minimum of six months. The experienced Biarritz scrum half Dmitri Yachvili has been called up to the French squad in his place.
Elsewhere, there were two more huge ties in this weekend off from the Six Nations. On Friday night last year’s finalists met at the Stade Marcel Michelin and Clermont Auvergne gained some measure of revenge with a 22-17 win over French champions, Perpignan. The home team could be thankful to fly half Brock James, whose 14 points proved vital for a slightly out of sorts Clermont. Full back Anthony Floch scored a try 15 minutes into the second half to give his side a little breathing space after a try from Romanian hooker Marius Tincu had given Perpignan the lead just after half time.
In the third big game of the weekend, Toulon squeaked home thanks to a late Felipe Contepomi conversion from the touchline to beat Biarritz 21-20 at Stade Felix Mayol. The win almost guarantees Toulon a place in the Top 14 playoffs and at the same time effectively condemns Biarritz. The Basques probably deserved the win, but two late yellow cards and a huge late effort from the home side proved just too much, and the 2006 champions will probably need to win all their remaining games to stand a chance of qualification for the playoffs and next season’s Heineken Cup.
Elsewhere Bayonne, Bourgoin and Montpellier recorded important wins over Albi, Montauban and Racing-Metro respectively, to ease relegation fears. As a result, Montauban dropped into the bottom two for the first time since the 4th round of games, and with some tough games to come, they will have their work cut out to stay up. The final game of the weekend saw leaders Castres struggle to a slightly flattering 35-10 win over Brive, which allowed them to stay top of the Top 14, a place no one would have predicted they would occupy with just five games left to go.