Hooker Marc-Antoine Rallier scored the second Castres try
Paris (AFP) - Reigning champions Castres tightened their grip on a place in the Top 14 postseason with a 16-12 win away to Bordeaux-Begles, another team scratching for a playoff berth.
“It was the perfect coup,” said Christophe Urios, the Castres coach. “We did what we had planned.”
In later games, three other teams chasing playoff spots all won at home against sides struggling in the bottom four.
The winners racked up some impressive numbers.
Lyon scored six tries as they brushed aside bottom club Perpignan 47-9. La Rochelle scored 10 tries as they pulverised Pau 71-21. Stade Francais collected two red cards but still edged Agen 25-22.
“It’s a feeling of total shame,” said Pau manager Simon Mannix. “I didn’t feel like it was coming this week, we knew La Rochelle were on a difficult five-match losing streak.”
The results kept Lyon in third, three points ahead of Castres but six behind second-placed Clermont who travel to leaders Toulouse for a table-top showdown on Sunday.
The next four teams are separated by two points.
Racing 92, who play Sunday, are fifth, a point ahead of Bordeaux with La Rochelle and Stade snapping at their heels.
In the early game, Castres suggested they are again finding form at the perfect time. The victory on Saturday was their eighth in nine matches and lifted them to third with four games left.
Last season, they squeaked into the playoffs in sixth and then won the title.
Bordeaux, meanwhile, suffered their first home league defeat of the season. They have only won twice away.
They have four games left, three away and one at home, against Toulouse.
“We can still win an away match, but after today it’s going to be tough to make the playoffs,” defence coach Joe Worsley said.
Bordeaux led 6-3 after a drab first half. In the 43rd minute, Castres fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta sent fullback Geoffrey Palis in for a try with a diagonal crossfield kick.
Bordeaux briefly retook the lead when Baptiste Serin kicked his third penalty but hooker Marc-Antoine Rallier scored the second and last try of the game following a lineout in the 53rd minute.
- ‘Arm wrestle’ -
“It was an arm wrestle,” said Bordeaux flanker Mahamadou Diaby. “The first team that scored a try was going to win.”
In Paris, the home team lost two players to red cards and two more to worrying injuries.
Flanker Sekou Macalou, after 31 minutes, and centre Jonathan Danty, after 48 minutes, saw red for the same offence – leading with an elbow as they tried to fend off a tackler.
New-Zealand back Tony Ensor was one of two Stade players carried off on a stretcher after a second-half collision
In the 57th minute, Stade backs Kylan Hamdaoui and Tony Ensor collided as they raced to catch a dropping ball, bashing heads. After a long delay for treatment both men were carried off, strapped to stretchers.
Stade responded by scoring the next 10 points.
Gael Fickou finished off a slick attack with a try under the posts. Nicolas Sanchez converted and then kicked a drop goal.
Agen could only breach the heroic home defence with the last play of the game to secure a bonus point.
“In 30 years as a coach I’ve never seen as many cards,” said Stade head coach Heyneke Meyer.
“One red card makes it difficult, two red cards makes it very difficult because you can’t do the scrum or get a lineout.”
In the late game, Grenoble boosted their bid to avoid relegation with a tense 19-18 home win over Toulon.
Gaaten Germain booted four penalties, including the decisive kick on 75 minutes, to help the hosts claw to within two points of 12th-placed Agen.