Stade Francais miss chance to regain top spot
Brive's flanker Dominiko Waqqniburotu (C) runs with the ball during a French Top 14 rugby union match against Stade Francais on February 15, 2014 at the Amedee-Domenech stadium in Brive-la-Gaillarde, western France - by Diarmid Courreges
The capital side saw a run of four straight wins come to an end last weekend when they lost to Clermont and they turned up at the Stade Amedee-Domenech without captain Sergio Parisse or France stars Pascal Pape, Jules Plisson and Rabah Slimani.
Two Morne Steyn penalties had the visitors in front, but Brive hit back through two penalties of their own from Gaetan Germain.
A converted Francois Da Ros try had Brive 16-9 up after 53 minutes - when Stade's Waisea Vuidravuwalu was in the sin bin - and further efforts late on from Guillaume Namy and Thomas Sanchou sealed a fine bonus-point win for the hosts, with Stade only able to reply through two more Steyn penalties.
The result leaves Stade Francais in third place, three points behind leaders Clermont, who lost at Grenoble on Friday, and one behind Montpellier.
"We are third, which is good in relation to our objectives for the season. Now we host Oyonnax on Saturday and we can't afford to lose that one," said Stade coach Gonzalo Quesada.
- Toulon gain Castres revenge -
Francois Trinh-Duc impressed as Montpellier hammered Perpignan to seal a third straight win, while Toulon gained a measure of revenge for their defeat at the hands of Castres in last season's French Championship final with a 19-13 victory earlier in the day.
A largely dull encounter -- the first since Toulon head coach Bernard Laporte received a long suspension for virulently criticising a referee -- saw each side score a try apiece in the second-half with the champions grabbing a defensive bonus point at the death through a penalty by South African scrum-half Rory Kockott.
Kockott had added extra spice to the encounter by announcing shortly before the match that he had revised his decision to join Toulon next season and would stay with Castres which resulted in him being booed every occasion he had the ball.
"Did it affect me? No, not at all. It means that you must be doing something right, it's normal," said the 27-year-old, who was the leading points scorer in last season's Top 14 and the player of the year.
Toulon took an early lead through former England star Jonny Wilkinson, as he landed a long-range penalty in the ninth minute and added another three minutes later.
Wilkinson made it 9-0 just before the half hour, but then missed a penalty himself either side of two misses from Kockott.
The game failed to gain in quality even after the half-time break but Castres finally sparked some excitement into proceedings as Kockott drove deep inside Toulon territory and, when the ball was subsequently worked back, Remy Tales passed to wing Remy Grosso, who had come in off his wing and burst through Matt Giteau's tackle to touch down.
Kockott converted to bring the score back to 9-7, but Toulon reacted immediately and Giteau made up for his missed tackle to sell a dummy and break the Castres line of defence to go over himself.
Wilkinson converted for 16-7 with 15 minutes remaining, but Kockott ensured a tense finish as he landed a penalty with 10 minutes remaining to put them within a converted try of victory.
Wilkinson replied in kind to restore their nine point lead at 19-10, and then limped off shortly afterwards with strapping wound round his left knee.
The visitors ensured they at least left with something when Kockott landed a penalty with two minutes remaining.
In other games, the meeting between Oyonnax and Bordeaux-Begles was called off but Toulouse won 16-6 at Biarritz and Racing-Metro beat Bayonne 18-8, although an injury to prop Luc Ducalcon forced him off in the second half and means he is a doubt for France's Six Nations clash with Wales.