Montpellier - Montpellier produced a typically bruising display to beat Castres
28-9 on Sunday and qualify for a Top 14 semi-final against Toulon.
was the fifth time in six years the two sides had met in the Top 14
playoffs but Montpellier, who finished the regular season third to
Castres' sixth, proved too powerful having lost three of the previous
Barring a seven-minute second-half period when they were reduced to 13 men, it was largely comfortable for Montpellier.
don't think Castres entered our 22 more than twice in the whole match,"
said Montpellier coach Jake White, who led South Africa to World Cup
glory in France in 2007.
"What that means is we played the game we needed to."
Fulgence Ouedraogo added: "There was this difficult period when we were
down to 13. You could have thought it was a turning point, that Castres
could come back.
"But on the contrary we managed to score 10 points and made the end of the game easier."
Montpellier opened the scoring on nine minutes through South African flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis's penalty.
were under the cosh early on and desperately trying to hold out but not
even four defenders could stop a powerful five-metre drive from Fiji
wing Timoci Nagusa on 13 minutes.
With dust-ups between fired-up
rival players breaking out all over the field, referee Laurent Cardona
decided to speak to Montpellier's South African centre Francois Steyn
and Castres flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta after one energetic scrap to
try to calm mounting tensions.
In a bruising encounter, Argentina
lock Rodrigo Capo Ortega was knocked out in tackling Montpellier's New
Zealand international centre Anthony Tuitavake as the players clashed
Sportingly, Montpellier hooker Bismarck du Plessis stopped
playing and reacted quickly to help Capo Ortega, turning over the burly
second rower into the recovery position.
Catrakilis and Urdapilleta exchanged penalties before the break but Castres should have scored a try as well.
Remi Lamerat broke through two weak tackles and was streaking towards
the tryline before being crowded out by back-tracking defenders on the
He kept the ball alive, though, and Castres went
wide left where fullback Geoffrey Palis dropped the ball just metres
form the line.
The second half started off as a risk-averse kicking contest that did nothing for the increasingly meagre spectacle.
African-born France international scrumhalf Rory Kockott did knock
over a penalty on 49 minutes but that only fired up Montpellier's pack.
Benoit Paillaugue broke the gainline and Steyn bulldozed forward before
South African lock Paul Willemse blasted through Kockott in an obvious
mismatch to score.
Another Kockott penalty kept Castres' hopes
alive before Montpellier substitute prop Jannie du Plessis was sent to
the sinbin for punching Mathieu Babillot in the stomach.
But that saw the game descend into farce at the next scrum as Montpellier were unable to field two props.
spent several minutes in discussion with Montpellier coaches before the
game could continue with uncontested scrums, but only after Montpellier
had sacrificed another player, leaving them with 13 against 15.
Even so, they stretched their lead when Catrakilis kicked his third penalty.
were in disarray and Tuitavake latched onto a bouncing midfield ball to
break upfield and feed South African No.8 Pierre Spies to score a 73rd
minute try that killed off any Castres hopes of a comeback.
a bad-tempered encounter ended with yet another 30-man flare-up that
left Jannie du Plessis with his shirt practically ripped off his back
and a tearful Lamerat with blood around his eye.
On Saturday, New
Zealand legend Dan Carter kicked a perfect six from six penalties as
Racing 92 beat Toulouse 21-16 to reach the semi-finals.
centre Gael Fikou scored the only try of the match but Carter's
impeccable performance in his return after three weeks out with a calf
problem, set up a semi-final against Clermont.