Toulouse win but still have that losing feeling
TOP14 WRAP: Toulouse moved into a French Top 14 semi-final spot on Sunday with a 42-27 victory over play-off rivals Racing 92 but were left to rue a late collapse which cost them a crucial bonus point.
Toulouse ran in five tries through Yoann Maestri, recalled to the French national squad this week, Australian scrumhalf Zack Holmes, Maxime Medard, Gael Fickou and Thomas Ramos.
Cruising at 42-6, Toulouse then took their foot off the gas and Racing grabbed three converted tries in 10 second-half minutes through Dimitri Szarzewski, Juan Imhoff and Kiwi speedster Joe Rokocoko.
The win moved Toulouse into the second spot on 70 points, six behind leaders Montpellier who lost 32-17 to Toulon on Saturday.
"It's mixed feelings," said Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola. "We beat one of the toughest teams with a positive performance although losing a bonus point left us feeling a little frustrated and disappointed."
Racing, who have a European Champions Cup semi-final against Munster to look forward to next weekend, also have 70 points and are in the third spot.
Toulon, with 68 points, Lyon, on 66, and Castres with 64 fill out the top six playoff spots with just two regular-season games remaining.
"We did not really turn up and it's a disappointment because we were hoping to keep second place," said Racing coach Laurent Labit, who rested a host of first-choice players ahead of the clash with Munster.
"The goal for us is to finish second in order to avoid a play-off at the end of a season where we also hope to have a European Cup final to play."
Earlier Sunday, Castres jumped into the play-off places when they won 26-18 away to fast-fading La Rochelle, who led the table earlier this season but are now eighth on 61 points.
The home team struck first with a 16th-minute penalty by Alexei Bales but spent most of the match playing catch-up.
Benjamin Urdapilleta, who had missed an early kick at goal, levelled with another penalty.
Just after half an hour, No.8 Alex Tulou smashed through five defenders as he ran 25 metres to touch down and Urdapilleta converted.
The Argentine flyhalf started the second half with a snap drop goal as Castres seemed to be fumbling away a spell of pressure.
Front-row forward Mohamed Boughanmi, who had only come off the bench three minutes earlier, reduced the gap to two points when he scored an unconverted try.
Three minutes later winger Armand Batlle scampered up the wing for a try that Urdapilleta converted to put Castres firmly in control.
Boughanmi replied with his second try and Brock James, who had just replaced Bales, converted with six minutes to play, but Urdapilleta had the final word with a last-minute penalty to take his tally to 16 points.
La Rochelle 18 Castres 26
Toulouse 42 Racing92 27
Toulon 32 Montpellier 17
Clermont 33 Bordeaux-Begles 3
Pau 22 Agen 33
Oyonnax 40 Brive 17
Lyon 44 Stade Francais 3