Les Jaunards have fallen far in the French Top 14.
Clermont, the defending champs who edged Toulon in last season’s decider, defeated Bordeaux-Begles 33-3 at home on the weekend, but, for all their 10 wins, are languishing in ninth position with just two rounds to play and will miss the playoffs.
Isaia Toeava, the 32-year-old former All Black, was at fullback against Bordeaux, former Chiefs and Steelers No 8 Fritz Lee started, while Loni ‘The Tongan Bear’ Uhila scored a try after coming on as a substitute. The visitors included Ed Fidow, Fa’asiu Fuatai, and Ben Volavola.
Oyonnax won the battle of the cellar-dwellers, 40-17 over Dominiko Waqaniburotu’s Brive. Ben Botica helped himself to a try and six goals for Oyonnax, while hooker Quentin MacDonald scored a try. Hika Elliot was again at blindside flanker.
Pau, preparing for a Challenge Cup semifinal against Cardiff this weekend, was trumped at home, 33-22 by Agen, for whom George Tilsley scored a try and Tom Murday started at lock. Pau’s line-up included fullback Tom Taylor, who kicked three goals, Conrad Smith and Benson Stanley, Colin Slade and Jamie Mackintosh.
Toulouse moved up to second with a 42-27 win over third-placed Racing-Metro. Charlie Faumuina – how the Blues and All Blacks would love him back – and Joe Tekori featured for Toulouse. Joe Rokocoko scored a try for Racing-Metro, while Dan Carter kicked two goals. Also starting were Anthony Tuitavake and Ben Tameifuna.
Castres, thanks to an Alex Tulou try and contributions off the bench from Maama Vaipulu and former Auckland prop Paea Fa’anunu, won 26-18 at La Rochelle, who fielded Victor Vito, Hikairo Forbes and Uini Atonio.
In the Aviva Premiership, a Jason Woodward try helped Gloucester to a comfortable 37-9 victory over Harlequins, who may need to bump up their strategic partnership with New Zealand Rugby. Josh Hohneck, John Afoa, Jeremy Thrush and Motu Matu’u all turned out for the cherry and whites, while Alofa Alofa and Mat Luamanu played for Quins.
Leicester Tigers were tipped over 27-21 by Northampton at Welford Road, a blow to the playoffs chances of Telusa Veainu, who scored a try, Mike FitzGerald, Valentino Mapapalangi and Logovi’i Mulipola. Ahsee Tuala scored a key try for Saints, while Piers Francis, Teimana Harrison and Michael Paterson all appeared.
Jimmy Gopperth’s impact – through three goals, not to mention a yellow card – was all over Wasps’ 30-15 victory over Worcester, who again fielded Jackson Willison, Ben Te’o and Bryce Heem at 12-13-14.
The Guinness PRO14 is heating up, though not for South Africa’s Southern Kings, who were pummelled 45-12 by the Cardiff Blues. The latter started Gareth Anscombe, at fullback, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo and Nick Williams.
This weekend sees the semifinals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
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