Paris - Stade Francais went clear at the top of the French
league on an emotional day in Paris with a bonus point 49-13 win over Castres
Tries from Fiji wing Waisea Nayacalevu, Jonathan Danty, a
hat-trick from captain Sergio Parisse and a penalty try ensured Stade took the
maximum five points from the encounter.
Clermont will have to do likewise at home to Brive on
Saturday to retake the Top 14 leadership on points difference.
Before the match, both sides paid tribute to the Charlie
Hebdo massacre victims by wearing "nous sommes tous Charlie" t-shirts
(we are all Charlie).
Following a minute's silence, the sparse crowd joined in the
spirit with a resounding and emotional rendition of the French national anthem
"La Marseillaise" as the game kicked off.
"We were all affected by what we saw," said Stade
coach Gonzalo Quesada.
"The players were saddened and stressed but agreed that
it was necessary to play the game and represent the city of Paris. I asked
myself all afternoon whether we should play or not.
"I told the players that we should be privileged that
people were coming to the stadium. We had to show a state of mind that makes
Castres struck first through a Julien Dumora penalty before
Jules Plisson hit back two minutes later.
The Parisians moved into overdrive on the quarter hour mark
with a simple move from the back of the scrum, No 8 Parisse feeding scrum-half
Julien Dupuy who ran hard at the stretched Castres defence before his perfectly
timed pass put Nayacalevu into the corner.
Plisson converted and then extended the hosts' lead twice
more in the first half hour to open up a 16-3 gap before flanker Piula
Faasalele was sin-binned for not rolling away after Castres had already been
warned for persistent infringing.
Within a couple of minutes, Castres looked to have been
already punished as Stade sent centre Geoffrey Doumayrou over with a
beautifully worked try down the left.
However, the referee referred it to the TMO who ruled it out
for a forward pass.
But the reprieve was short-lived as Stade kept on the
pressure and a clever miss-pass from Dupuy allowed barrel-chested centre Danty
to power over under the posts, with Plisson converting.
Castres finally managed to stem the tide of 23 straight home
points when Dumora slotted over a penalty to send the 2013 champions in at the
break trailing 23-6.
And the Top 14 strugglers got a lifeline at the start of the
second period when Plisson failed to gather an up-and-under, sparking a kick
and chase that finished with wing Remy Grosso touching down and Dumora
Stade regrouped and produced another wonderfully worked try
with Nayacalevu and Djibril Camara setting up Danty for his second score.
Yet incredibly that too was referred to the TMO who
adjudged, again much to the surprise of most observers, the centre to have lost
control of the ball in touching down and knocking on.
Italian captain Parisse was seething and moments later the
inspirational leader took on the Castres defence on his own and barged over for
the hosts' third try.
Castres continued to give away penalties and replacement
prop Ramiro Herrera was shown a yellow card, with Parisse scoring his second
try from a push-over scrum immediately afterwards.
Castres captain Rodrigo Capo Ortega was next into the
sin-bin as the referee lost patience with Castres, now down to 13 men.
Stade did not let them off the hook, although Parisse was
denied his hat-trick from another driving scrum as the referee awarded a
Parisse deservedly got his hat-trick in the final minute,
though, as following a long period of pressure Plisson chipped to the corner
for his captain to touch down.