All Black red-carded on French debut
TOP 14 WRAP: Bordeaux-Begles made history by becoming the new leader of the premier French domestic competition on Sunday.
On the same day, All Black wing Ben Smith was sent off on his Pau debut as his team went down 18-21 to Top 14 strugglers Stade Francais.
Bordeaux beat the Victor Vito-led La Rochelle 20-15 in a derby match, scoring the decisive, and only, try of the game through Peni Ravai eight minutes from time.
In front a crowd of more than 38,000 at Bordeaux’s Matmut Atlantique stadium in wet, greasy conditions, Matthieu Jalibert kicked five penalties for the home side, while Jules Plisson booted five of his own for La Rochelle.
The result, allied with previous leader Lyon’s 12-29 loss to by Castres on Saturday, saw Bordeaux move to the league’s number one spot for the first time in the club’s history.
“You could call that a perfect afternoon,” waxed Bordeaux coach Christophe Urios.
“Last year, Bordeaux handed me the worst Christmas of my life by winning at Castres [where he was coach]. Now I’m going to have a very happy Christmas thanks to Bordeaux!”
Scrumhalf Maxime Lucu added: “To be top of the table is always symbolic, notably midway through the season.
“But we didn’t talk about it. Instead, we wanted to remain unbeaten at home and win this derby match with a completely different atmosphere in this stadium.”
In the day’s early game, Pau wing Smith, capped 84 times by New Zealand, was shown a red card by international referee Alexandre Ruiz in the 51st minute for an elbow-led fend that left Stade Francais hooker Lucas Da Silva prone.
“We’re a little sad for him,” Pau coach Frederic Manca said of Smith.
“There was no intent to lift the elbow or plant it in the throat.”
Pau took an early lead, Antoine Hastoy hitting two penalties either side of a Siegfried Fisi’ihoi try.
But the Parisians hit back with tries either side of half-time from Arthur Colville and Quentin Bethune, Joris Segonds converting one and adding three further penalties.
There was drama until the end, however, as Pau captain Lucas Rey crossed for a 72nd-minute try, converted by Tom Taylor.
But bottom-placed Stade held on for just their third victory of the season, while Pau returns home with the consolation of having picked up a losing bonus point.
“It wasn’t easy,” Stade backs coach Julien Arias said. “But the essential was to win the match, to give ourselves some breathing space.”
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