31 Aug 2009

Swine flu and Mehrtens penalties talking points in France

8:03 am on 31 August 2009

Swine flu has caused disruption to the French Super 14 rugby competition.

Australian centre Mark Gasnier scored two tries as French giants Stade Francais, who had seen some of their squad laid low by swine flu during the week, clinched their first win of the French rugby union season.

The match between Montauban and Castres was postponed on Friday as six players with Castres were also diagnosed with swine flu.

Former All Blacks first-five Andrew Mehrtens kicked three penalties as the Paris based Racing-Metro picked up their second win of the season, a 18-9 win over Bayonne after trailing 9-6 at the break.

Defending champions Perpignan ended former European champions Toulouse's perfect start while debt-ridden Bourgoin, whose players have agreed to take pay cuts in order to help keep the team afloat, edged Biarritz to move off the foot of the Top 14 table.

Gasnier struck in the 22nd and and 79th minutes as Stade, who were level 13-13 at the break, ran away to beat Montpellier 43-26 with Italian centre Mirco Bergamasco and backrow forward Pascal Pape also scoring.

Toulouse, the 2008 French title winners, were knocked off top spot in a 17-15 defeat at champions Perpignan, for whom centre Maxime Mermoz scored the game's only try in the 63rd minute.

Toulouse are a point behind Clermont, who lead the Top 14 despite being held to a dour 9-9 draw at Brive on Friday.

French international Clement Poitrenaud then added to Toulouse's misery when it was revealed he had suffered a suspected fracture of his left hand in the 33rd minute.

Tana Umaga's Toulon moved into third spot with a 15-9 win at Albi with England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson kicking five penalties.

Bourgoin, with debts of around $NZ4 million saw off Biarritz 22-17, a day after players and coaches agreed to accept pay cuts of between 15 and 18 percent in exchange for a desperately-needed cash injection from former president Gaston Maulin.