Top 14 review: Clermont qualify
Last Updated: 15/04/12 7:50am
Seru Nakaitaci offloads for Clermont
Bayonne kept their Top 14 survival hopes alive on Saturday with a 24-19 win over Biarritz in a fiercely contested Basque derby.
Clermont moved level with Toulouse at the summit of the standings with a convincing win at home to Stade Français.
The result also guarantees Clermont automatic qualification for the semi-finals.
Agen secured their spot in the top flight for another year with victory over Toulon while Racing Metro took a step towards the play-offs thanks to a bonus-point win over Brive.
Mamuka Gorgodze scored a hat-trick as Montpellier smashed Lyon, who are now almost sure to be relegated.
In the late game, Castres boosted their play-off hopes with a big win at home to Bordeaux-Bègles, who are now deep in the relegation quagmire.
ASM Clermont Auvergne 25-9 Stade Francais Paris
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand
Clermont confirmed their status as the team to beat in the Top 14 as they secured qualification for the semi-finals.
As was the case in last week's European quarter-final, Brock James was on song with the boot, landing 20 points including a drop goal.
For Stade Français, qualification for the play-off has now become complicated as they now trail Parisian rivals Racing by six points.
With a much-changed team, Clermont led 13-3 at the break, thanks to a try from hooker Benoit Cabello.
Dominant at scrum time, the Parisians took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half as Julien Dupuy kicked them back into contention.
But the power of the hosts' bench proved too much for Stade Français as James kicked les Jaunards to victory in the final quarter.
The win was Clermont's 41st in succession at home.
"I am very happy with the spirit in our team," said Clermont coach Vern Cotter.
"The players don't want to disappoint the fans at Marcel-Michelin Stadium and these four points for victory are very important."
Stade's Australian coach Michael Cheika insisted his team can still make the end of season play-offs.
"I am not even thinking about not qualifying, there are still three matches to go, so we will see," he said.
SU Agen 22-13 RC Toulon
Stade Armandie, Agen
A bad week for Toulon got even worse as the home play-off that looked so sure a few weeks ago is now under threat.
Manager Bernard Laporte has been summoned before the FFR and is set to see his 60-day ban for criticising the local refs extended.
The result means that Agen are safe from relegation as they climb into eighth.
Toulon took the early lead thanks to Gaby Lovobalavu's try and were ahead 10-9 at the break.
But Brice Dulin's second-half try for the home side plus 17 points from the boot of Conrad Barnard saw Agen bring their losing streak to an end and deny Toulon a losing bonus point.
Montpellier HR 43-12 Lyon Olympique
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier
A great result for Montpellier as a full house of points brings them to just one point behind third-placed Toulon.
It was on-way traffic as Georgian loose forward Gorgodze bagged a hat-trick. Montpellier led 22-0 at the break and added three more tries after the break.
Fabien Galthie's are looking more and more like a side that could repeat their surprise appearance in last season's final.
For Lyon, the ProD2 beckons.
Racing-Metro 40-19 CA Brive Correze
Stade Yves Du Manoir - Colombes (Paris)
Racing continue their spring revival with a bonus-point win - their fifth success in six games - that takes them closer to the play-offs.
Les Franciliens were full value for their five championship points and look to be hitting form at just the right time as they scored four excellent tries.
Racing led 16-9 at the end of a tightly-fought first half thanks to a try from centre Henry Chavancy.
But the Parisians cut loose in the second period with Fijian lock Jone Qovu bagging a double.
Brive's 70th-miunte try from Riaan Swanepoel proved too little too late and les Corréziens are still one win short of safety.
Aviron Bayonnais 24-19 Biarritz Olympique
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne
It wasn't pretty, but no one expected it would be. In the end, Bayonne can still believe they can save their Top 14 hides after a bruising encounter in the 101st Basque derby.
The result sees Bayonne move to within striking distance of Bordeaux-Bègles, whom they now trail by three points.
An ultra-motived home side gave it all in the contact areas and ruled at scrum time, setting up replacement pivot Cedric Garcia for a late, winning drop goal.
Former Cheetahs, Bulls and Sharks fly-half Jacques Louis Potgieter landed seven penalties for Bayonne while Biarritz wing Ilikena Bolakoro scored the only try of the game.
Bayonne led 18-12 at the break after a first period dominated by penalties. Potgieter landed 6 from 6 while Dimitri Yachvili slotted 4 from 4.
Potgieter extended the lead after the restart but Julien Peyrelongue combined with Bolakoro as BO crossed the whitewash to set up a grandstand finish.
But Garcia came off the bench and slotted the winning drop with his first touch of the ball in the 70th minute.
Castres Olympique 44-20 Union Bordeaux-Begles
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres
Castres led from start to finish to consolidate their place in the top six.
Bordeaux-Bègles were their own worst enemies, making a plethora of errors. The result leaves them under serious threat of relegation as their remaining fixtures are not easy.
The game swung in Castres favour when UBB hooker Fabien Rofes was handed a dubious yellow card for a late tackle. From there the wheels came off the Bordeaux bus although Castres were unable to clinch the crucial bonus point.