Clermont settle on top of French rugby

French Top 14 championship leaders Clermont claimed victory over second placed Toulouse 23-11 and took a five point lead in the standings. International winger Vincent Clerc was ruled out for nine months with a knee injury.


Clermont put themselves in pole position to finish top of the French championship on Saturday when they beat second placed Toulouse 23-11 to record their fifth successive victory and send them five points clear of their rivals.

Toulouse had a nightmare day as star winger Vincent Clerc was ruled out of action for nine months after he damaged cruciate ligaments in his left knee in the 67th minute when he slipped while trying to tackle Aurelien Rougerie, who eased over the tryline for his second touchdown of the match.

"I did not see the knee that Vincent injured, but he fell in front of me," said Rougerie.

"That is part of sport, but I am sad, it is a real pity.

"Aside from being a formidable opponent, Vincent is a team-mate (in the French team) and a friend, that sends shivers up your spine to see something like that happen especially when he is in great form.

"I hope he will come back quickly and even stronger," added Rougerie.

Clerc is the third first choice back from Toulouse to suffer a serious injury this season with Clement Poitrenaud and Florian Fritz picking up ankle and leg injuries respectively.

It was the last thing Toulouse manager Guy Noves would have wished for ahead of their European Cup semi-final with London Irish next weekend.

There are also doubts over France flanker Thierry Dussautoir, who left the field early in the first-half after a collision with Clermont second row forward Jamie Cudmore.

Rougerie had opened his account in the fifth minute though a try by Yannick Nyanga in the 19th minute and a penalty by Jean-Baptiste Elissalde gave the hosts the lead for the one and only time at 8-7.

However, aside from one more penalty by Elissalde in the 42nd minute the three-time European Cup winners could not answer their opponents for whom fly-half Brock James totalled 13 points, with three penalties and two conversions for Rougerie's tries.

Despite the defeat Toulouse look certain to make the top four and therefore a place in the play-offs where the leading four teams contest the title.

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