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Johnny Sexton found his form for Racing Metro at the best possible time

The Parisians booked their place in the Top 14 playoffs after thumping Castres.

Sexton kicked 19 points in Racing's win.
Sexton kicked 19 points in Racing's win.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

RACING METRO SEALED their place in the top six of the Top 14, putting an end to a run of four successive defeats with a 53-10 humbling of a sorry Castres side that only ensured it didn’t suffer the humiliation of relegation, just two years after being crowned champions, last week.

After being dropped for last week’s draw with La Rochelle, Sexton kicked five penalties and two conversions as Racing leapfrogged Bordeaux-Begles.

Former France fly-half Lionel Beauxis’s miss with the last kick of the match cost Bordeaux-Begles a place in the Top 14 playoffs on Saturday as they lost a thrilling encounter against 14 man Toulouse 23-22.

The 29-year-old — the first choice France kicker at the 2007 World Cup — put his head in his hands in disbelief as he sent a relatively straightforward kick wide.

The match was a battle between two of the leading candidates to succeed Philippe Saint-Andre Toulouse as France coach after the World Cup – veteran handler Guy Noves and Bordeaux former France captain Raphael Ibanez.

“I’ve known some great moments and some cruel ones and this is certainly one of the latter,” said Ibanez.

Bordeaux’ misery saw Oyonnax take their place in the play-offs by a point despite a 46-17 thrashing by defending champions Toulon which saw them take their try tally at home this season to over 50.

Racing will play Paris rivals Stade Francais in the play-offs next Friday while Oyonnax are away at Toulouse on Saturday — Toulon will play the winner of the former while Clermont will host the winners of the latter.

Bordeaux’ upset, though, was nothing compared to the tears that flowed at Bayonne as the Basque club did everything in its power to extend its elite status to 12 years but not even a bonus point 45-12 win over La Rochelle was sufficient.

“This is very difficult for the region,” said coach Nicolas Morlaes referring to the Basque region which saw Biarritz relegated last season and who failed to regain their Top 14 place this term.

“Scoring 45 points against a good side like La Rochelle is a superb performance but in the end it counts for nothing.

“I am very disappointed, very dejected.”

Bayonne slipped out because Brive came up with an unexpectedly strong performance at home to an abject Stade Francais outfit, who came unlike La Rochelle with something to play for in trying to secure a top two spot and direct entry into the play-off semi-finals.

However, Stade played more like the relegation-threatened side as Brive turned them inside out sending their fans into ecstasy in the second-half as they ensured they got the bonus point win they required to stay up.

First Fijian Malakai Bakaniceva, who had only just come onto the pitch, burst clear of a despairing Stade defence and over the line, though, in a nerve jangling moment he all but lost control of the ball before recovering it to touch down.

Stade were all over the place and Brive fans unconfined joy knew no bounds as fly-half Riaan Swanepoel intercepted a Stade pass on the halfway line and ran it back to score their fourth try which Gaetan Germain converted for 27-0.

“We’ve had a complicated season,” admitted Brive player Jean-Baptiste Pejoine.

“Always looking at the others results to see how we were placed is very tiring and stressful.

“We had a lot of pressure on us in this match but we used it to our advantage.”

Grenoble also toyed with the drop till the dying minutes but just maintained their status with a defensive bonus point in a 29-24 defeat by already relegated Lyon for whom former France captain Lionel Nallet received a special welcome as he bowed out after 18 years at the top level.

“It’s bad for the heart and bad for the constitution,” said Grenoble kicker Jonathan Wisniewski, who ended up as the leading points scorer in the Top 14.

“I’ve been in the play-offs before (Racing-Metro) but this is worse for the nerves. We knew what was going on when we were out there and we played like that, far too tensde and nervous. However, we’re staying up and we have several good years ahead of us.”

© AFP 2015

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