Paris (AFP)

Montpellier scored three tries to defeat faltering Bordeaux 31-26 on Friday and pull level on points with Clermont and La Rochelle at the head of the French Top 14 table.

The victory kept Montpellier in third place with 46 points ahead of Clermont's mouth-watering home clash against Toulon on Sunday and second-placed La Rochelle's hosting of Castres on Saturday.

Friday's win allowed Jake White's Montpellier to bury the shock 32-27 loss at Pau last week while Bordeaux have now lost for games in succession.

Winger Jean-Baptiste Dubie put Bordeaux ahead after just three minutes at the Altrad Stadium with a try following smart inter-play between scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues and Kiwi flanker Hugh Chalmers.

Simon Hickey kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

Fiji winger Nemani Nadolo thought he had got on the scoresheet for Montpellier but his effort was ruled out for a foot in touch.

Montpellier cut the deficit on the quarter-hour mark thanks to a 25-metre penalty from Springboks star Francois Steyn which was awarded when New Zealand flanker Luke Braid impeded Australian scrum-half Nic White.

The hard-charging Nadolo then grabbed Montpellier's first try of the night, scoring in the corner after powerfully shrugging off tackles from Romain Lonca and Blair Connor.

Steyn kicked the extras for a 10-7 lead to the home side but the South African ended the first half in the sin bin following a high tackle on Connor.

Hickey popped over the resulting penalty as the two sides went into the break level at 10-10.

Despite being a man down, Montpellier edged ahead early in the second period when centre Vincent Martin scored after being released by flanker Akapusi Qera.

With Steyn still off the field, White took over kicking duties but missed the difficult conversion before Bordeaux were also reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for Hickey.

The Irishman's sin-binning allowed White to hit the resulting penalty for an 18-10 Montpellier lead.

Steyn returned to the fray but 10 minutes later was punished for another infringement allowing Hickey, also back in play, to succeed with a 35-metre penalty.

Steyn, having composed himself, slotted over a 30-metre kick to extend Montpellier's lead at 21-13.

However, within a minute, Bordeaux were back in contention with their second try of the night scored by replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin with Hickey hitting the extras for 21-20.

Steyn again relieved some of the pressure for Montpellier with another penalty from the 22-metre line as the home side stretched to 24-20 with 10 minutes left.

In a topsy-turvy match, Hickey fired over a monster 40-metre penalty to again slash the deficit to 24-23.

But former Australian rugby league star Joe Tomane then made sure of a home win with a late try although Steyn missed the conversion.

The only consolation for Bordeaux was Hickey's last-gasp penalty which allowed them to claim a defensive bonus point.

Agence France-Presse

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