Paris - Toulon overcame the injury-enforced
loss of veteran Australian flyhalf Matt Giteau to beat Castres 17-7 on Sunday
and stay comfortably on course for the French Top 14 playoffs.
Giteau, 33, suffered an adductor strain and
was replaced by Frederic Michalak.
It was the latest setback for the
Australian playmaker whose only appearances since the start of April were the
European Cup quarter-final defeat to Racing 92 and last week's league clash
Michalak hadn't been named in the match-day
squad but he was cool and confident as he converted both his team's tries from
Fiji winger Josua Tuisova and All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu.
Castres only got on the scoreboard in the
last minute when Thomas Combezou went over for a converted try.
It was a night of mixed fortunes for
Toulon's Australian fullback Quade Cooper.
Just three days after being axed from the
Wallabies' Olympic Games sevens squad, he suffered a nervy opening in the rain
at Stade Mayol.
First he allowed a pass to slip through his
hands and then lost his footing as Geoffrey Palis bore down on him.
Fortunately, neither error proved costly
and he made amends on the hour mark when his impressive precision break allowed
Nonu to score.
Toulon remain in third place in the table
on 72 points, seven behind leaders Clermont and just one back from Montpellier.
"It was a very complicated week with
the withdrawal of Drew Mitchell yesterday and Matt Giteau at mid-day
today," said Toulon coach Bernard Laporte.
"It's been a black season in terms of
our injuries but even with absentees you must always play with pride in this
Toulouse outpowered Agen 52-19 in an
eight-try mauling to edge ever closer to a berth in the play-offs.
Ugo Mola's Toulouse now sit on 66 points in
fifth spot, two behind Racing 92 and five ahead of Bordeaux, with only the top
six heading into the play-offs.
For Agen, however, the result meant they
joined Oyonnax in relegation to the ProD2.In a free-running contest in blustery
conditions at the Stade Ernest-Wallon, Toulouse built up a comfortable 33-7
lead by half-time.
France international trio Sebastien Bezy,
centre Gael Fickou and veteran wing Vincent Clerc all crossed for tries in the
first 22 minutes before Agen's South African back Johann Sadie pulled one back
for the visitors.
Louis Picamoles guaranteed Toulouse a bonus
point with the team's fourth, swiftly followed by Fickou going over for his
All Black hooker Corey Flynn crossed for
Toulouse's sixth, while Tamaz Mchedlidze pulled one back for an Agen side that
refused to lie down.
Gilian Galan, on as a replacement for
Picamoles, enjoyed a barnstorming cameo display, barging his way over for a
brace of late tries, punctuated by one for Agen's Fijian winger Leka Tagotago.
But it was all too late for Agen, who
remain bottom of the Top 14 and were confirmed for relegation for the third
time in the professional era after similar returns to the ProD2 in 2007 and
On Saturday, leaders Clermont made sure of
their spot in the play-offs with a hard-fought 16-10 victory over Pau.
The victory left Clermont on 79 points, six
ahead of Montpellier, who play Harlequins in the European Challenge Cup final
in Lyon on Friday, but whose largely second-string side went down 36-10 at La
Big-spending Racing 92, who face Saracens
in the European Cup final next Saturday, also rested their big guns and went
down to a 33-27 loss to Brive.
Defending champions Stade Francais allayed
relegation fears with a 10-try 69-8 rout of Oyonnax.
In Friday's game, Bordeaux-Begles defeated