13 Sep 2009

James beats Mehrtens in French rugby kicking duel

6:03 am on 13 September 2009

Brock James trumped Andrew Mehrtens in the battle of the Antipodean kickers as Clermont defeated Racing-Metro 30-22 to ascend to the Top 14 summit and consign their promoted opponents to the relegation zone in French Super 14 rugby.

Former All Black Mehrtens produced a drop goal, a conversion and two penalties, the last of which put the visitors 22-21 ahead with 10 minutes to go, but a three-penalty salvo from James brought the home side victory as the Australian fly-half finished the match with 20 points to his name.

Jacques Delmas and Didier Faugeron enjoyed a winning start to life as coaches of Stade Francais as the Top 14 giants overcame Castres 44-18 to halt a dismal run of form.

The pair were brought in to replace Ewen McKenzie and Christophe Dominci, who were asked to step down in the wake of a 30-22 defeat at Biarritz that put the Parisian outfit into the relegation zone.

A brace of penalties from New Zealand fly-half Cameron McIntyre gave visitors Castres an early 6-0 advantage, but prop Sylvain Marconnet responded with a try and Noel Oelschig's boot ensured Stade went in with a 16-15 lead at half-time.

Wing Mirco Bergamasco went over to extend the hosts' advantage early in the second period and they didn't look back, with further tries from James Haskell and Julien Arias - and a 24-point contribution from Oelschig - condemning Castres to their first defeat of the season.

Toulon welcomed back Jonny Wilkinson for their trip to Montpellier but the former Newcastle man was unable to prevent his side from succumbing to their second successive defeat.

Wilkinson was rested for the 21-18 loss to Montauban and his trusty left boot secured 10 points to give the visitors a 20-9 lead with 20 minutes to play, only for Montpellier to snatch a 21-20 victory through tries from Sebastien Kuzbik and Jacques Boussuge, who went over in the very last minute.

Elsewhere, Toulouse moved up to second with a narrow 19-13 home win over bottom club Albi, Montauban beat Brive 23-20 and Biarritz edged Bayonne 12-6 in the first Basque derby of the season.

Cash-strapped Bourgoin produced one of the shocks of the fledgling campaign when they overcame defending champions Perpignan 17-6.