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Sexton tastes defeat in Parisian derby as Morris scores for the Tigers

Here’s how the Irishmen based in France and England got on over the weekend.

AS THE FOUR Irish provinces continued to jostle for places in the Guinness Pro12 over the weekend, there were a host of Irishmen based abroad involved in important league fixtures too.

We’ve rounded up the Irish involvement in the English and French leagues in the last few days.

Top 14

Ireland out-half Johnny Sexton was in the 10 shirt for Racing Métro as they were beaten 28-19 by Parisian rivals Stade Français at Stade Yves du Manoir.

Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Roberts Sexton and Racing suffered defeat to Stade. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Sexton kicked four penalties and a conversion of Maxime Machenaud’s try having recovered from a recent thigh injury, but the defeat means Gonzalo Quesada’s side have completed the double over Racing this season following a 23-19 win in Stade Jean-Bouin back in October.

Racing’s defence specialist Ronan O’Gara men conceded just one try to Stade, but their lack of discipline allowed South African out-half Morné Steyn kick seven penalties for the visitors.

Stade played 60 minutes of the game with only 14 men after captain Sergio Parisse was controversially red carded for a challenge in the air.

Source: 7RugbyVids/YouTube

Sexton and Racing drop to sixth in the Top 14, inside the play-off spots, with regular season games against La Rochelle [away] and Castres [home] still to come.

At the other end of the table, Bernard Jackman and Mike Prendergast‘s Grenoble were beaten 37-17 by Clermont at home yesterday to ensure they will have a nervy finish to the season.

Chris Farrell off loads in the tackle 12/6/2012 Farrell has made 20 appearances in the Top 14 this season. Source: Photo by Ron Gaunt

With fixtures against Toulouse [home] and Lyon [away] remaining, Grenoble are just a single point ahead of 13th-placed Bayonne and the relegation zone.

Irish duo James Hart and Chris Farrell were both used off the bench in Grenoble’s loss to Clermont, the latter replacing the injured Xavier Mignot in the first half and the former playing the closing quarter.

Pro D2

As we highlighted earlierEddie O’Sullivan‘s Biarritz and Jeremy Davidson‘s Aurillac narrowly missed out on the Pro D2 play-offs, but former Leinster lock Mark Flanagan has helped Mont-de-Marsan into the semi-finals.

Ex-Ulster wing Conor Gaston continued his excellent end-of-season form with a brace of tries in Aurillac’s win over Bourgoin today as he made his 24th start of the campaign under Davidson.

David Kearney and Conor Gaston Former Ulster wing Gaston scored last weekend too. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cork man Brian Hayes featured in the closing 20 minutes of the game after coming off the bench into the second row.

Aviva Premiership

Exeter Chiefs had a massive 24-20 win over Saracens in Allianz Park this afternoon to jump above Mark McCall‘s men into fourth and a play-off spot with one regular season game left.

Former Ulster out-half Gareth Steenson was in excellent form for the Chiefs, kicking a penalty and three conversions, while his compatriot Ian Whitten also delivered a strong performance on the right wing.

Saracens slip down to fifth in the table on points difference, and a win at home to Sale Sharks next weekend would potentially secure a stunning play-off position for neutral’s favourites Exeter.

However, the fact that Sarries plat Premiership whipping boys London Welsh in their final regular season fixture will leave them confident of making up the points difference.

Rugby Union - Aviva Premiership - London Irish v Exeter Chiefs - Madejski Stadium Steenson helped the Chiefs to a brilliant win. Source: David Davies

On Friday night, 37-year-old Peter Stringer started at scrum-half in Bath’s 27-26 win away to Conor O’Shea‘s Harlequins, a victory that solidifies Bath’s second position in the table behind Northampton Saints.

With his destination for next season still unannounced, Stringer completed 59 minutes as Bath ran in three tries in that time.

Irishman Niall Morris scored a try for Leicester Tigers in an important 26-21 win away to Wasps that sees them jump to third in the table.

Morris, who Leinster attempted to re-sign for next season before the fullback agreed to remain with the Tigers, has been in good form recently and crossed the whitewash inside the first 10 minutes at the Ricoh Arena.

Ex-Ireland U20 hooker George McGuigan made his 11th Premiership appearance of the season as Newcastle were beaten 34-28 on the road by Sale on Saturday afternoon.

Elsewhere, London Irish’s disappointing season continued with a 35-12 defeat away to Gloucester, with Munster-bound Tomás O’LearyTom Court and former Connacht centre Eoin Griffin all in the starting team.

Eoin Griffin Griffin and the Exiles were beaten again. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Centre Eamonn Sheridan, who will join Oyonnax next season, was a second-half replacement for the Exiles.

Opposite Griffin at outside centre was Brendan Macken, currently on loan at Gloucester from Leinster. Making his fifth Premiership start, the powerful 23-year-old completed 80 minutes.

Finally, Paul Rowley, who joins Ulster this summer, was at scrum-half for London Welsh in their heavy 46-0 loss to Premiership leaders Northampton on Saturday, while veteran back row Daniel Browne also started.

Welsh have lost all 21 of their league games this season and with a final day fixture at home to Saracens next weekend, the prospects of that changing seem slim.

Greene King IPA Championship

Sean ScanlonMichael Keating and Ali Birch were all in Rotherham’s starting XV as the Titans were beaten 24-16 by Bristol in the second leg of their promotion semi-final tie this afternoon.

Heavy favourites Bristol advance into the promotion final on account of their 56-36 aggregate victory and the group of Irishmen at Rotherham will have to wait for next season to get another shot at earning a Premiership place.

Peter Lydon Lydon had an excellent season for London Scottish. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In the other semi-final, an excellent performance from former Seapoint RFC fullback Peter Lydon couldn’t prevent London Scottish from being beaten 38-15 by Worcester Warriors in the other semi-final second leg.

Lydon scored a try, conversion and penalty for the London club but Worcester move on to meet Bristol in the final after a 65-37 aggregate win. Former Ulster hooker Niall Annett was used off the bench by the Warriors in their victory, while ex-Ireland back row Neil Best was on the blindside for London Scottish.

National Championship of Excellence

In Italy’s domestic league, former Leinster out-half Ian McKinley was in the 10 shirt for Viadana as they drew 25-25 at home to Calvisano. The Irishman kicked one conversion, with the draw meaning Viadana finished their season in sixth position.

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Murray Kinsella

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