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Cruden misses winning penalty chance as Agen stun Montpellier

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Paris (AFP)

Former New Zealand international fly-half Aaron Cruden missed a potential winning penalty a minute from time as relegation threatened Agen stunned Top 14 leaders Montpellier 31-29 on Saturday.

Montpellier played almost the entire match with a numerical disadvantage following former All Black Jarrad Hoeata's sixth-minute red card but could have snatched victory at the death, only to see Cruden drag his long-range penalty wide.

Agen's win moved them up to 11th and five points clear of second-from-bottom Brive.

Montpellier's lead was cut to three points as second-placed Racing 92 edged Brive 17-13.

Bullocking France international Louis Picamoles had given Montpellier the lead with a try on 10 minutes, although by then lock Hoeata had been dismissed for an illegal charge into a ruck.

Yet Montpellier still dominated the early exchanges, with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar teeing up Picamoles to barge over from five yards.

Moments later, Picamoles broke the gainline before a one-handed offload kept the move flowing, with Cruden passing to Australia international Jesse Mogg to finish in the corner.

But Agen worked an overlap to send Georgian Tamaz Mchedlidze over in the right corner on 20 minutes to reduce the arrears.

And missed tackles in midfield allowed Agen to score a second try through South African Johann Sadie.

Montpellier's other lock Paul Willemse was shown a yellow card for an illegal shoulder charge and Agen exploited their two-man advantage as Australian fly-half Jake McIntyre strolled through a gaping hole to score -- the hosts turning around a 14-0 deficit into a 21-17 lead.

And there was one more blow to Montpellier before Willemse returned as Fijian Filipo Nakosi scored less than a minute into the second period.

Australian international wing Joseph Tomane kept the hosts in the game with a try on 46 minutes but McIntyre, who finished with 16 points, increased Agen's lead with a penalty.

Montpellier salvaged a losing bonus point with a late try from Romain Ruffenach but could have had more but for Cruden's miss.

And things ended on a sour note as replacement scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue left the pitch on a stretcher and in tears after suffering an injury.

- Dulin injured -

Racing were off to a fast start against Brive as full-back Brice Dulin won a kick chase to open the scoring on eight minutes.

Marc Andreu finished off a sweeping move to double the advantage on 12 minutes with New Zealand great Dan Carter converting both.

Damien Lagrange soon hit back for Brive before half-time.

Dulin was forced off in the second half with a knee injury as Thomas Laranjeira earned a losing bonus for the visitors with a penalty.

Pau moved into the top six with a thrilling 29-27 victory at Castres as a Julien Tomas try 14 minutes from time, converted by former All Black Colin Slade proved decisive.

Castres No.10 Benjamin Urdapilleta missed a late drop goal that could have given the hosts victory.

Australian international fly-half Mike Harris kicked a perfect five from five penalties as Lyon dragged themselves back into play-off contention with a tough 15-6 win over in-form Toulon.

In what was a largely uninspiring affair, Harris nailed five penalties to two from young France international Anthony Belleau in response.

Toulon, who remain in the top six, came into the match on a three-game winning run but could not get the league's top try-scorer Chris Ashton or his fellow wing Semi Radradra into space to test Lyon's defence.

"It wasn't a great match to watch I imagine," admitted Lyon flanker Julien Puricelli.

The hosts came closest to a try early in the second half but an unkind bounce of the ball denied former England international Delon Armitage.

"If I was five years younger, it would have been a try under the posts," Armitage 34, told Canal Plus.

On Sunday, champions Clermont will bid to end a six-game losing streak -- which included a home loss to rock-bottom Oyonnax last week -- against La Rochelle.

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