Botica stars as Oyonnax boost survival hopes

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Paris (AFP)

New Zealander Ben Botica scored 18 points as Oyonnax gave themselves a Top 14 lifeline with a 33-27 victory over Stade Francais on Sunday.

Botica crossed for a try, kicked two conversions and three penalties in a match-winning personal haul that gave rock-bottom Oyonnax a second straight victory and, more importantly, hope of escaping the drop.

The defeat, a fifth in a row, dragged Stade further into the relegation dogfight.

The Parisians are just three points above second from bottom Brive and seven ahead of Oyonnax, having lost to a relegation zone team for the second week in a row.

Last week Stade dropped a 36-34 thriller to Agen, who had started the day second from bottom but are now 11th following their shock 31-29 victory over leaders Montpellier on Saturday.

Like Agen, Oyonnax are upwardly mobile having stunned champions Clermont 18-12 at their Marcel Michelin fortress last week. Before that, they had just one league win in a miserable season.

Three early Botica penalties set Oyonnax on the way to victory in a match in which they trailed for only seven minutes, after Jules Plisson converted an 18th minute try from Willem Alberts.

Oyonnax hit back with tries from Daniel Ikpefan, New Zealand international hooker Hikawera Elliot and Botica to open up a healthy 28-10 lead.

Stade scored a penalty try on the stroke of half-time with Oyonnax's Georgian prop Irakli Mirtskhulava in the sin-bin.

Yet the 14 men started the second half by scoring another try through Ikpefan and although Stade hit back through Julien Arias and Marvin O'Connor, the hosts held on for a crucial victory.

On Saturday, Montpellier's former All Black Jarrad Hoeata was sent off after just six minutes. His ex international team-mate Aaron Cruden then missed a potentially winning penalty a minute from time in a two-point defeat at Agen.

Racing 92 closed the gap to the leaders to three points with a 17-13 win over Brive while Toulouse are only a point further adrift after winning 25-19 at Bordeaux-Begles.

Later on Sunday, Clermont will try to end a six-match losing run at home to La Rochelle.