Tears for Perpignan as they go down
May 3, 2014
Tempers flared near the end as Perpignan fought to avoid the drop © Getty Images
Perpignan finally found their fighting spirit when it mattered but it was not enough for them to avoid relegation on a dramatic final day in the Top 14. Their narrow 25-22 defeat at Clermont allied to Oyonnax's point in a defeat at Brive condemned the former giants to face the unthinkable - the end of their 103-year spell in the top flight.
For much of the afternoon it appeared Perpignan might not just avoid defeat but could also bring to an end Clermont's amazing home record, but as the game entered the last quarter the pressure took its toll. Clermont grew more assured, Perpignan started making mistakes and losing players to cards. James Hook's missed kicks from relatively easy positions cost them dear.
While Oyonnax were being well beaten at Brive Perpignan still had a lifeline, but then news filtered through that Oyonnax had fought back (they lost 19-17) , heads dropped and the gesticulating from the Perpignan bench grew ever more frantic. As the clock ran down they were camped in their own half and a late escape was never likely.
Even when the whistle went the suffering was not over as Perpignan's players and fans had to stand and wait for news the Oyonnax game was over. By the time it came the brutal reality of what had happened was already sinking in.
Racing Metro will face Toulouse in the Top 14 play-offs despite suffering a humiliating 44-10 defeat to Montpellier this afternoon. If they manage to win that game they will face Toulon.
Toulon pipped Montpellier to first place with a 17-15 win over Stade Francais. That result meant Stade missed out on the top six kokcout but it did secure them a play-off against the seventh-placed Aviva Premiership side to qualify for the inaugural Rugby Champions Cup.
Bayonne could have gone down but they left nothing to luck as they beat Castres 23-13. They ended a lofty tenth while Castres squeezed into sixth position despite the loss.
Grenoble could also have gone down and did themselves no favours as they were beaten 31-8 by Toulouse but in the event other results went their way.
Biarritz, like Perpignan until recently one of the powerhouses in French rugby, ended a wretched campaign which had seen them win only five matches with a 54-20 drubbing at Bordeaux.
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