There are three interesting results - the size of Clermont's win, Bayonne's win and Toulouse's proof of depth.
Two of the matches - Clermont vs Racing and Toulouse vs Biarritz - produced thrilling running rugby, unlike the usual Top 14 stodge. Perhaps they should have Top 14 only when the Internationals are away or maybe it was the cold weather, making teams keep all 15 of the players busy. There was excellent rugby in both matches.
Many players were missing, playing for France - eight from the Toulouse side, six from Clermont, four from Stade Français, two from Perpignan and one each from Montpellier and Racing. All of their clubs played but without these top players and presumably they could be without them again when the match is rescheduled.
Clermont played even though the temperature was minus six at the start of the match.
Results, Round 17
Clermont vs Racing Métro, 31-13
Bayonne vs Stade Français, 26-20
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Bègles, 44-7
Toulouse vs Biarritz, 20-15
Montpellier vs Perpignan, 22-11
Agen vs Castres, postponed
Lyon vs Brive, postponed
Log after Round 17
The big beneficiaries are Bayonne who, while not out of danger yet, have hauled themselves up off the foot of the table. Biarritz and Lyon are most in jeopardy.
Agen, Castres, Lyon and Brive have a game in hand.
1 Toulouse 65
2 Clermont 59
3 Toulon 50
4 Castres 44
5 Montpellier 44
6 Stade Francis 40
7 Racing-Métro 37
8 Agen 36
9 Bordeaux 36
10 Brive 28
11 Bayonne 27
12 Perpignan 27
13 Biarritz 25
14 Lyon 24
Biarritz vs Toulouse at Parc des Sports D'Aguilera
Toulouse were without eight top players who were in Paris to play for France against Ireland, and yet they had no trouble in dispatching Biarritz who had been showing something of a possible resurgence of late., and they did it in the usual, expansive Toulouse manner. The only disappointment in their bonus-point victory was the number of sanctions - 17 penalties and two yellow cards. It was the penalties that kept Biarritz in the game, for they were beaten more comprehensively than the five-point difference suggests.
Australian Luke Burgess got the first try when Toulouse won a tighthead and No.8 Gillian Galan picked up and fed Burgess going right. The big scrumhalf accelerated and powered his way over for the try. 5-0 after 15 minutes.
Benoît Baby missed a penalty kick and then goaled one. 5-3 after 21 minutes though Toulouse were showing every sign of running away with the match. Clément Poitrenaud had the ball on attack in a two-against-tow situation. He moved right bringing both defenders in and giving Matanavou a try in the right corner. 10-3 after 22 minutes.
At this stage flyhalf Julien Peyrelongue was taken off on a stretcher in a neck brace.
Toulouse won a Biarritz line-out in their own 22 and, in true Toulouse style, set off on the attack. Burgess ran and sent Luke McAlister away. The muscular centre sent Yves Donguy racing over for the try. 17-3.
Biarritz had a great chance when in succession they had a line-out, a scrum, a penalty and another scrum - all five metres from the Toulouse line, but they lost the ball.
On the stroke of half-time Baby goaled a second time. 17-6.
Biarritz actually won the second half 9-3 - three kicks to one. Damien Traille's soaring drop was the last score of the match. There were two yellow cards in the half, both for tackle infringements, First Yannick Nyanga went off to the bin and then Sylvain Nicholas just as Nyanga came back. For the last 18 minutes of the match Toulouse played with 14 men. In the end the visitors were battling to keep their victory.
Tries: Burgess, Matanavou, Donguy
Pens: Baby 4
Biarritz: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Benoît Baby, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Yann Lesgougues, 8 Raphaël Lakafia, 7 Manuel Carizza, 6 Benoît Guyot, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Jérôme Thion, 3 Sylvain Marconnet, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Yvan Watremez.
Replacements: 16 Benoît August, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Jean Baptiste Roidot, 19 Florian Faure, 20 Seremaia Burotu, 21 Ilikena Bolakoro, 22 Dane Haylett-Petty, 23 Francisco Gomez Kodela
Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Timoci Matanavou, 13 Yann David, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Yves Donguy, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Gregory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Christopher Toleafoa, 1 Daan Human
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Russlan Boukerou, 19 Sylvain Nicolas, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 Yannick Jauzion, 22 Yohan Montes, 23 Yohan Montes
Referee: Patrick Pechambert
Assistant referees: Jérôme Lamirand, Philippe Gorbenko
Television match official: Eric Gauzins
Clermont vs Racing-Métro at Parc Des Sports Marcel Michelin
At the end of a week of internal wrangling Racing-Métro came apart in the Clermont-Ferrand cold. They did not seem to be on strike but there was little in their play to suggest that they were a team and not just a collection of individuals. Clermont with eight players on national duty, on the other hand, looked a team that always played together with their close support and quick passing a pleasing feature of their play.
It took just two minutes for the frozen crowd to warm up with their Yellow Submarine as they took the lead with a brilliant try.
The home side attacked and flyhalf David Skrela threw out a poor pass to his right where Noa Nakaitaci picked up the bouncing ball, forced his way ahead and got a pass off to adventurous young Jean-Marcellin Buttin who scored. 7-0.
Juan Martín Hernández, who no longer looks the magician who played for the Pumas in 2007, kicked a penalty before Buttin started a counterattack deep inside his own territory. The fullback sent Nakaitaci away. The centre looked certain to score as he raced for the posts but Fabrice Estebanez brought him down with an ankletap. Buttin popped to Fabrice Nakaitaci who scored. 14-3 after 16 minutes.
Just before half time, Clermont attacked down the right with two great passes by Nakaitaci and then Buttin who drew Juan Imhoff before sending Brent Russell scurrying over for the try. 21-3, the half-time score.
The second half was even - 10-10, but that does not tell the story of Clermont's domination. They had a great break by Alexandre Lapandry and two five-metre line-outs before Mirco Bergamasco was sin-binned and a long pass by Sitiveni Sivivatu to his right sent Gerhard Vosloo, who had an outstanding game, over for a try. 31-6 with five minutes to play.,]
With two minutes to play François Steyn saved Regan King out of the way and scored Racing's only try.
Tries: Buttin, Nakaitaci, Russell, Vosloo
Cons: Skrela 3, James
Pens: Hernández 2
Clermont: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Brent Russell, 13 Regan King, 12 Noa Nakaitaci, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 David Skrela, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Elvis Vermeulen (captain), 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Gerhard Vosloo, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Lionel Faure.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Raphaël Chaume, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Alexandre Audebert, 20 Brock James, 21 Gavin Williams, 22 Anthony Floch, 23 Daniel Kotze.
Racing-Métro: 15 Juan Imhoff, 14 Julien Saubade, 13 François Steyn, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Sireli Bobo, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Sébastien Descons, 8 Jacques Cronjé, 7 Rémi Vaquin, 6 John Leo'o, 5 Jone Qovu, 4 ,François van der Merwe 3 Benjamin Noirot, 2 Benjamin Noirot, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Karim Ghezal, 19 Bernard Le Roux, 20 Mirco Bergamasco, 21 Guillaume Boussès, 22 Gaëtan Germain, 23 Juan Pablo Orlandi
Referee: Jean-Luc Rebollal
Assistant referees: Vincent Blasco, Christophe Graviou
Television match official: Eric Gonthier
Montpellier vs Perpignan at Stade Yves du Manoir (Montpellier)
Perpignan would have liked to have had Maxime Mermoz and Nicolas Mas who were trying to keep warm in Paris while the club slid further down towards the relegation zone. Montpellier, once bottom of the log continue their upward surge.
The Catalans were perhaps unfortunate not to score two tries in the last ten minutes.
Tries: Tulou, Amorosino, Gorgodze
Cons: Fernandez, Bustos Moyano
Pens: Bustos Moyano
Pens: Porical 2
Montpellier: 15 Lucas Amorosino, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Paul Bosch, 11 Martín Bustos Moyano, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Drikus Hancke, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Juan Figallo
Replacements: 16 Erasmus Jansen van Vuuren, 17 Na'ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Alikisio Fakate, 19 Rémy Martin, 20 Benoît Paillaugue, 21 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 22 Yoan Audrin, 23 George Jgenti
Perpignan: 15 Jérôme Porical, 14 Farid Sid, 13 David Marty, 12 Rudi Coetzee, 11 Adrien Planté, 10 Gavin Hume, 9 Kevin Boulogne, 8 Henri Tuilagi, 7 Jean-Pierre Perez, 6 Grégory Le Corvec, 5 Robins Tchale Watchou, 4 Olivier Olibeau, 3 Danie Thiart, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Perry Freshwater
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Jérôme Schuster, 18 Gerrie Britz, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 David Mélé, 21 Joffrey Michel, 22 Bertrand Guiry, 23 Kisi Pulu.
Referee: Sébastien Cloute
Assistant referees: Nicolas Datas, Dominique Parrini
Television match official: Gilles Cogne
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Bègles at Stade Mayol
The size of the victory is scarcely a surprise as Bordeaux-Bègles had a team that had a definite second-XV look about it.
Toulon scored three tries in the last 10 minutes.
Tries: Van Niekerk, Tillous-Borde, Roberts 2, Rooney
Cons: Wilkinson 5
Pens: Wilkinson 3
Toulon: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Alexis Palisson, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 David Smith, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Joe El Abd, 5 Christophe Samson, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman , 2 Sébastien Bruno, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Mickaël Ivaldi, 17 Laurent Emmanuelli, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Pierrick Gunther, 20 Geoffroy Messina, 21 Luke Rooney, 22 Fabien Cibray, 23 Davit Kubriashvili
Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Laurent Ferrères, 14 Vungakoto Lilo, 13 Michel Denêtre, 12 Félix Le Bourhis, 11 Thierry Brana, 10 Gerard Fraser, 9 Julien Seron, 8 Louis-Benoît Madaule, 7 Leroy Houston, 6 Charlie Ternisien, 5 François Tisseau, 4 Cameron Treloar, 3 Bees Roux, 2 Fabien Rofes, 1 Laurent Delboulbes
Replacements: 16 Wayne Avei, 17 Franck Labbé, 18 Adam Jaulhac, 19 Hugh Chalmers, 20 Manu Saubusse, 21 Camille Lopez, 22 Bruce Reihana, 23 Albert Toetu
Referee: Salem Attalah
Assistant referees: Laurent Cardona, Bruno Fiche
Television match official: Bernard Dal Maso
Bayonne vs Stade Français at Stade Jean Dauger
This was such an important match for Bayonne in the midst of internal squabbles and pooR results. the win has lifted them off the bottom of the log.
At half-tome the Basques led 13-3.
Tries: Mazars, Boutaty
Pens: Potgieter, Garcia 3
For Stade Français:
Tries: Sackey 2
Cons: Rodriguez 2
Pens: Rodriguez 2
Bayonne: 15 Cédric Heymans, 14 Sam Gerber, 13 Thibault Lacroix, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Cédric Garcia, 8 Marc Baget, 7 Dwayne Haare, 6 Guillaume Bernad, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Abdellatif Boutaty, 3 Renaud Boyoud, 2 David Roumieu, 1 Aretz Iguiniz
Replacements: 16 François Da Ros, 17 Clément Baiocco, 18 Rob Linde, 19 Jean-Joseph Marmouyet, 20 Julien Audy, 21 Benjamin Boyet, 22 Clement Lagain, 23 Vitolio Manukula
Stade Français: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Martin Rodriguez, 11 Julien Arias, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 David Lyons, 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 Arthur Chollon, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Stanley Wright, 2 Aled De Malmanche, 1 Rodrigo Roncero
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempéré, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Scott Lavalla, 19 Antoine Burban, 20 Jerome Fillol, 21 Jules Plisson, 22 Djibril Camara, 23 Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.
Referee: Franck Maciello
Assistant referees: David Rosich, Régis Gabard
Television match official: Philippe Bonhoure
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