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Toulon secure play-off berth, Clermont climb into top two

By Harry West
Toulon’s Leigh Halfpenny

Toulon made sure of a top-six finish and a place in the Top 14 play-offs courtesy of a 26-13 win at Bordeaux Begles on Saturday.

The three-time European champions have featured in four of the past five domestic finals and will have the chance to improve on that record after overcoming their hosts, who can no longer extend their season beyond next weekend.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked the first three of his 16 points to give Toulon the lead, which was stretched when Guilhem Guirado went over, Halfpenny adding the extras.

The Wales full-back slotted two more penalties either side of Baptiste Serin getting Bordeaux on the board as Toulon earned a 16-3 lead at the end of a half littered with yellow cards for Vadim Cobilas, Florian Fresia and Juan Smith.

Serin’s penalty got Bordeaux back to within 10 in the 56th minute, but Halfpenny added another three before Liam Gill’s try put the result beyond doubt, Jean-Marcellin Buttin’s last-gasp score offering a measure of consolation for the home side.

With Montpellier not in action until Sunday, Clermont Auvergne took advantage to move into second place and stake their claim for a semi-final spot.

Ludovic Radosavljevic kicked 18 points in a 23-20 win at Lyon, who still harbour hopes of a top-six finish, as do Pau, who moved into the final qualifying spot with a 32-27 win over Brive, Watisoni Votu scoring two tries.

Castres are all but assured of their place after their 52-7 hammering of struggling Toulouse. The lead was just six points at half-time, but Castres scored 39 unanswered points in the second period, Benjamin Urdapilleta finishing with 27 in a one-sided affair.

Meanwhile, Bayonne won the battle of the bottom two sides with a 43-35 success over Grenoble.

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Flankly 13 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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