Mogg double fires Montpellier, Racing edge Toulon
TOP 14 SUNDAY WRAP: Australian fullback Jesse Mogg crossed for a brace of tries as Montpellier consolidated their place at the head of the Top 14 with a six-try 40-24 mauling of La Rochelle on Sunday.
A try-double from Virimi Vakatawa helped Racing 92 cement their grip on second place with a bruising 17-13 victory over Toulon.
Montpellier's bonus-point victory stretched their lead over Racing to six points with third-placed Toulouse 10 points back, meaning they're odds-on for one of the semifinal spots in the end-of-season play-offs.
Boasting 10 foreigners in their starting XV captained by France No.8 Louis Picamoles, Montpellier mixed their Springbok-hardened bottle up front with some sublime skills from Mogg and halfbacks Ruan Pienaar and Aaron Cruden.
"We did what we had to do to win the match but we can't be totally happy with our performance," said Montpellier's New Zealander coach Vern Cotter.
"We're not looking ahead to the play-offs, we're only looking at our next match against Toulon on Saturday in Marseille.
"The moment you start speculating, you lift your foot off the gas."
An entertaining match saw La Rochelle open the scoring through Paul Jordaan, the South African centre the final recipient from a Pierre Boudehent pass after Romaric Camou had broken the line.
Montpellier fired back through the three-time capped Wallaby Mogg, who skipped through a flaky defence for a fine individual try.
All Black scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow restored the visitors' lead as he pounced on an overthrown line-out for a straight run-in.
But in a non-stop 10 minutes of action, giant Fijian wing Nemani Nadolo was on hand after Mogg gathered a Cruden grubber and offloaded inside.
Picamoles scored Montpellier's third before the break, after which the home side turned the screw with two pushover tries to Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis and Kelian Galletier.
Mogg got his second after latching on to a perfect Pienaar chip, the South African scrumhalf missing the conversion after five previous successes.
Boudehent grabbed a consolation try for the visiting team, but La Rochelle were denied an injury-time try after Brock James's long pass to his unmarked wing was ruled forward.
In Paris, Racing edged a fierce tussle in the battle to join Montpellier in receiving a bye straight into the play-off semifinals.
There was little between the sides and tries from Fiji-born France international Vakatawa for the hosts and All Black Malakai Fekitoa for Toulon saw the sides head into half-time level at 10-10.
Vakatawa finished off a sweeping backs move to score his second try early in the second half but Francois Trinh-Duc cut Toulon's deficit with a penalty.
Racing held on, though, and look well set to finish the regular season in the top two, while Toulon's losing bonus point means they're six points off second.
French Top 14 results:
Montpellier 40-24 La Rochelle
Racing92 17-13 Toulon
Agen 36-26 Oyonnax
Bordeaux-Begles 19-18 Pau
Brive 25-27 Lyon
Castres 28-23 Toulouse
Stade Francais 50-13 Clermont