Brunel winds down with Bordeaux victory

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Paris (AFP)

Bordeaux-Begles gave Jacques Brunel the perfect send off in what will likely be his final home match in charge before becoming France coach with a 29-19 win over Top 14 leaders La Rochelle on Saturday.

Bordeaux survived the final 20 minutes with 14 men after the dismissal of Jean-Baptiste Dubie for a reckless high tackle to maintain their unbeaten home record in the league this season.

Brunel told his players on Friday that his final match in charge would be next week's trip to Stade Francais with French rugby president Bernard Laporte expected to sack veteran Guy Noves on December 27.

And Bordeaux put in an industrious performance that boosted their play-off hopes as they moved level on points with Lyon, Toulouse and Castres.

Defeat means La Rochelle will lose top spot if Montpellier beat Lyon later on Saturday.

Australian veteran Brock James kicked a penalty to give La Rochelle the lead but the game changed when Kevin Gourdon was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

Bordeaux capitalised as Matthieu Jalibert kicked two penalties and a conversion after Geoffrey Cros intercepted a poor mis-pass from Vincent Rattez on the La Rochelle 22 to cross for the first try.

Cros intercepted another long pass from James but this time needed two grabs to gather the ball and was smothered before he could streak away again.

James did better with a penalty that brought La Rochelle back within a converted try of Bordeaux just before the half hour mark.

Both sides were struggling at the line-out while the leaders' discipline was also lacking, although they were afforded a reprieve when Jalibert missed a penalty on 33 minutes.

La Rochelle missed a late chance to pick up points before half-time when opting to kick to the corner instead of at the posts, only to lose their own line-out five metres from the tryline.

Jalibert and James exchanged penalties early in the second half before both sides started to get into the festive spirit and throw the ball around.

- Rash tackle -

Precision and accuracy were at a premium though and Jalibert was next to score with another penalty.

But Dubie was sent off 20 minutes from time for a rash high tackle on Rattez giving the visitors hope.

La Rochelle kicked to the corner and this time caught their own line-out before driving bulky Samoan backrower Afa Amosa over the line.

But indiscipline cost them again as Jalibert was given a chance to kick a fifth penalty and extend the lead to more than a converted try.

Peni Ravi then dived over the line from close range late on to seal victory before Charles Bouldoire went over in the corner to score a consolation for La Rochelle a minute from time.

Earlier, Agen moved clear of the relegation zone after coming back from a 10-0 deficit to beat Brive 27-13.

The defeat dropped Brive into the bottom two as they succumbed to late converted tries from Clement Laporte and Facundo Bosch.

Agen looked in trouble after 18 minutes as Brive were awarded a penalty try and Mathieu Lamoulie was sent to the sin-bin for a tackle off the ball.

But the 14 men held out without conceding further scores and then Agen began their comeback through a Johann Sadie try on the stroke of half-time.

Two Jake McIntyre penalties gave them a 13-10 lead before Thomas Laranjeira levelled matters.

But the hosts dominated the closing stages and are now three points clear of Brive.

On Friday, Racing 92 began life at their new indoor U Arena with a hard-fought 23-19 victory over Toulouse.