Ben Botica is leading the way for unfashionable Oyonnax as the central-eastern French club fights hard to avoid relegation in the Top 14.
The former North Harbour and Harlequins No 10, a renowned sharpshooter and rugby nomad, like his father Frano, kicked seven goals, including one well after fulltime, to guide Oyonnax to a 38-all home draw with high fliers La Rochelle.
Botica has racked up 176 points for his club this season, including a team-high four tries. Oyonnax, the French PRO D2 champions in 2013 and 2017, coming from the third tier in the late 1990s, has had several New Zealanders on its books in recent seasons.
Hooker Quentin MacDonald and No 8 Rory Grice, along with replacement Viliami Ma’afu, featured in the draw against La Rochelle, a far more competitive effort after the Atlantic coasters put 57-12 on the easterners in September. Oyonnax, however, still lies in last position by nine points. La Rochelle fielded Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Jason Eaton and Uini Atonio.
Bordeaux-Begles, with Fa’asiu Fuatai and Ben Volavola in the ranks, beat Lyon 19-10. Mike Harris, Toa Halafihi and Taiasina Tuifua turned out for France’s gastronomic capital.
Aaron Cruden returned from a knee injury to score a try in Montpellier’s 28-16 victory over Stade Francais. Nemani Nadolo also scored a try for the competition leaders. Tony Ensor and Brandon Nansen started for the Parisians.
Wing George Tilsley scored a try for 13th-placed Agen in its 30-3 local derby win over Castres. Maama Vaipulu was red-carded for the latter, while David Smith and Alex Tulou were also in the mix.
Tom Taylor’s two penalty goals were decisive in Pau’s narrow 11-10 win over Toulouse.
Colin Slade, at fullback, Conrad Smith, Benson Stanley, Daniel Ramsay and Jamie Mackintosh all turned out for Pau, while Charlie Faumuina and Joe Tekori were in the Toulouse ranks.
In the Guinness PRO14, Hadleigh Parkes’ Scarlets defeated Dragons 47-13.
Ma’afu Fia’s Ospreys scraped home 29-28 over Cardiff Blues. Gareth Anscombe kicked five goals and Nick Williams scored a try for the Blues, while Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo formed the Blues’ midfield combination.
A brace to hooker Hame Faiva was crucial for Treviso in its 27-21 win over the Cheetahs from South Africa. Marty Banks kicked three goals, alongside Whetu Douglas, Dean Budd, Monty Ioane and Jayden Hayward.
Phil Burleigh and Jordan Lay started for Edinburgh in the 37-7 shutout of the Southern Kings. Rhys Marshall’s Munster beat Connacht 39-13, despite a try to Tom McCartney. Pita Ahki was at second-five for the vanquished.
In the Aviva Premiership, a try to wing Sinoti Sinoti helped Newcastle to a 28-20 upset over leaders Exeter, Thomas Waldrom’s team. Nili Latu and Tane Takalua entered the fray off the pine for the Falcons.
Sean Maitland’s Saracens outplayed Wasps 38-15. Bryn Evans, Halani Aulika and TJ Ioane tasted a tight 30-29 victory for Sale over Harlequins. Alofa Alofa scored a try for Quins, while Mat Luamanu was at No 8.
Two late tries, including one from a chargedown, by replacement halfback Kahn Fotuali’i helped Bath to a much-needed 44-25 victory at Worcester. Paul Grant was on the scoresheet, while the Wilsons, Jack and James, also featured. Bryce Heem and Jackson Willison started for the Warriors.
Flanker Brendon O’Connor made his comeback for Leicester in the Tigers’ 19-15 win over relegation-bound London Irish. Logovi’i Mulipola, Mike FitzGerald and Valentino Mapapalangi were alongside him in the trenches.
London Irish’s Kiwi contingent was James Marshall, Filo Paulo, Mike Coman, Blair Cowan, Ben Franks and Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
There were 12 players of New Zealand origin in Northampton’s 22-19 win over Gloucester. Ken Pisi scored a try for Saints, who also included Ahsee Tuala, Dylan Hartley, Teimana Harrison and Michael Paterson.
Prop John Afoa scored a rare try for Gloucester, as did hooker James Hanson, the 2009 North Harbour rake. Willi Heinz, James Woodward, Tom Marshall, Josh Hohneck and Motu Matu’u also appeared for the cherry and whites.
Round five of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup will take place this weekend.
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