Absences help Stade Francais to go top
January 26, 2014
Brive hooker Guillaume Ribes runs with the ball during his side's win over Toulon © Getty Images
The start of the Six Nations next week meant that there were no international players in action in the Top 14 and that led to defeats for title challengers Clermont, Toulon and Toulouse as they struggled to come to terms with the absences.
Stade Francais, also weakened by missing players, finished the weekend at the top thanks to their bonus point 32-6 win over champions Castres on Friday. The Parisians had the better of an error-riddled first half thanks to the boot of Morne Steyn, though Rory Kockett had kept the visiting side in contention - and Stade Francais held a slender 12-6 lead at the break. But any chance of a contest disappeared in the second half as Stade Francais turned on the style. Julian Arias broke Castres' stubborn resistance before Waisea Vuidravuwalu touched down twice
Clermont, who started the weekend as leaders, had six players missing and that contributed to their 18-9 loss in dreadful conditions at Bayonne. In a game that came down to kicking, Clermont fly-half Morgan Parra missed three second-half penalties.
European champions Toulon slipped ten points behind the leaders with a lacklustre 23-10 defeat at Brive. They were only missing three front-line players but they were 20-3 down after a poor first half and only narrowed the deficit three minutes from time when Rudi Wolf went over. Brive also managed only one try but Gaiten Germain kicked 18 points.
Toulouse also lost ground, losing 25-5 against Racing Metro at the Stade de France. Tries from Jonathan Sexton, Mike Phillips and Marc Andreu secured the win and a bonus point for Racing. Toulouse are still looking for their first win away from home this season.
Grenoble moved into fourth place with a 25-19 win over Perpignan, Fabien Alexandre's two second-half tries proving the difference. Montpellier climbed to fifth after a hard-fought 28-23 win over Bordeaux-Belges, with Pierre Bérard's late try sealing the points.
The basement battle between Biarritz and Oyonnax was postponed because of a flooded pitch.
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