By Ciarán Duffy
A Round-Up of Where the Money is
Stade Francais got their season back on track with a win against Toulouse. It was as dramatic as it could have been with Paul Williams crossing over in the dying minutes, eventually being awarded the try after a lengthy review by the TMO.
Toulouse started the better, Alexis Plisson got the games first try just four minutes in, after some stunning footwork by Medard. They crossed over again shortly after, however the try was ruled out. Replays showed Christopher Tolofua pulling the jersey of Laurent Sempere, correct decision but it was unnecessary as the Stade hooker was unlikely to prevent the try.
The two sides exchanged penalties making the score 8-3 in favour of the away side. Toulouse dominated the opening half and would regret not taking their chances. They held a one-score lead when they should have been looking at securing the bonus point in the second half.
Stade Francais were on top from the start of the second-half, Toulouse showed good line speed to cut them off and managed to extend their lead, Bezy kicked a penalty making it an eight point game. Plisson kicked one for Stade shortly after, before finally Stade were rewarded for their second-half dominance with a try. Hugo Bonneval showed why he was called into the French squad when he touched down, Morne Steyns conversion put Stade in front for the first time in the game.
Stade immediately conceded a 5-meter scrum which would result in Toulouse going back in front. They seemed to get themselves out of trouble when they won a penalty, however they would fail make use of their possession and let their lead slip. Toulouse had a second try ruled out by the TMO, although Louis Picamoles run would have deserved 5 points. They had an advantage anyway and Bezy knocked over the resulting penalty. He added another with 5 minutes to go, seemingly wrapping up the game for Toulouse.
Stade would recover; they managed to keep possession off a miss thrown lineout. Paul Williams got over for Stade, the TMO took a good look at it and awarded the try. It was difficult to see the line in the replays, but the evidence suggested it was the right call. The conversion was missed to create a nervy finish, there would be no final twist however and Stade got their first win over Toulouse since 2012.
The loss for Toulouse also creates a three-way tie for top spot. Dan Carter kicked Racing 92 to victory, scoring 11 points in a 23-18 win against Bordeaux Begles. Racing and Toulouse are joined on 38 points by Clermont Auvergne, who got back to winning ways with a 33-16 win over bottom side Agen. Two tries from Gerondeau ensured that Clermont stayed in touch at the top.
Toulon are two points off the top in 4th, they survived a late comeback from Pau to win 21-17. James O’Connor touched down twice with Konstantin Mikautadze also scoring as Toulon went ahead. The European Champions had to survive a late scare from Pau, Conrad Smith was impressive in scoring his first try for the club. The New Zealander beat five defenders, including fellow World Cup winner Ma’a Nonu to touch down. The Top 14 strugglers were then awarded a penalty try to make it a four point game, but Toulon, who were twice down to 14 men, held on for the win.
The win for Stade Francais provides them with some breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone, with Paus losing bonus point proving valuable as they put some daylight between themselves and Oyonnax. Oyonnax remain 13th, they lost 42 -17 to Grenoble. Bernard Jackmans men were impressive in scoring 5 tries, making them the only team to get a try-scoring bonus point this game round.
A second-half Luafutu try gave Brive a 19-18 win over Montpellier. The win sees Brive move to 6th in place of Montpellier, Bordeaux-Begles remain 5th. La Rochelle kept themselves in contention for a Champions Cup spot, they remain behind 8th place Castres despite beating them 25-21. La Rochelle are now on 26 points in 9th, 8 points behind Montpellier.
Theres no Top 14 until the 30th of January due to the European break. Some French sides are in action next week in their rescheduled round two European games. Munster are at Stade Francais on Saturday, while Ulster travel to Oyonnax on Sunday. Leinster may be out of Europe but both Toulon and Bath still have a chance to qualify, they meet on Sunday. Bordeaux-Begles and Clermont Auvergne meet in pool 2 and Racing 92 host Glasgow Warriors in pool 3. Theres one game in the challenge cup this week as Pau host Castres.
Last seasons champions Stade Francais get a much-needed win as the race for a Top 14 semi-final spot becomes even tighter.
Ciarán Duffy (@VoiceQuakeDuffy) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.
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