Top 14: Weekend of upsets as Stade Francais move top
The second round of the Top 14 threw up several surprises, with Bayonne and Stade Francais the only teams to make it two wins out of two.
The Parisians, who suffered a nightmare season last time around, managed 40 points for the second week in a row, but were far from convincing in their 41-26 win over newly promoted La Rochelle.
The team from the capital trailed 14-10 at the break, but three tries in five minutes broke the visitors’ resistance, the third a fanstastic individual effort from Julien Arias. However, La Rochelle were able to score a third try of their own late on to deny the hosts a bonus point, with Thomas Combezou scoring his second of the afternoon.
Bayonne’s second victory was more straightforward as they hammered the other promoted side Agen 27-0. The score was probably a little harsh on the visitors, but the Basques will be delighted, especially with the late try from Lionel Mazars that allowed them to claim the attacking bonus point.
A week ago, Toulon suffered a rare loss at home, but seven days later, it was the team from the South coast who inflicted a surprise home defeat on Biarritz, 13-3. The only try of the game came from a surprise source as Kris Chesney went over after confusion in the Biarritz defence from a dropped high ball.
The home side will be worried about their lack of incisiveness going into two away games at Agen and Perpignan. Meanwhile, Toulon, for whom Jonny Wilkinson added eight points, will take confidence before they entertain Racing-Metro at Mayol.
Champions Clermont avoided a shock defeat at Bourgoin as three tries in the last ten minutes allowed them to win 25-12. Having beaten Clermont last week, Perpignan were not able to repeat the feat this week as they went down 26-11 at Brive, with Gerhard Vosloo scoring a stunning try for the hosts. Racing also slipped to defeat at Montpellier, conceding a late try to lose 36-19. Having taken the lead early on, Sebastien Chabal’s side were comprehensively outplayed, with centre Geoffrey Doumayrou scoring a hat-trick for the hosts.
The final game of the weekend, on Saturday evening, saw European champions Toulouse lose away to last year’s surprise package Castres, 22-16. Guy Noves’ side struggled early on conceding a string of penalties before Chris Masoe went over for the first try of the game.
The visitors came back into the game, and a late try from Sylvain Nicolas allowed them to take a defensive bonus point, but they made far too many handling errors to hope to win the game. With a match against Stade Francais next week, Toulouse will hope for a big improvement to extend their unbeaten run against the side from the capital to seven matches.