Rising Castres win at slumping La Rochelle

Paris (France) (AFP) –


Castres jumped into the Top 14 playoff places when they won 26-18 away to fast-fading La Rochelle on Sunday.

The victory lifted Castres to 64 points and into the sixth and final playoff spot after 24 rounds of matches. They overtook Pau, who lost at home to Agen on Saturday and are on 62 points, and La Rochelle, who led the table after 14 rounds but are now eighth on 61.

The home team struck first with a 16th-minute penalty by Alexei Bales but spent most of the match playing catch-up.

Benjamin Urdapilleta, who had missed an early kick at goal, levelled with another penalty.

Just after half an hour, No.8 Alex Tulou smashed through five defenders as he ran 25 metres to touch down and Urdapilleta converted.

The Argentine fly half started the second half with a snap drop goal as Castres seemed to be fumbling away a spell of pressure.

Front-row forward Mohamed Boughanmi, who had only come off the bench three minutes earlier, reduced the gap to two points when he scored an unconverted try.

Three minutes later winger Armand Batlle scampered up the wing for a try that Urdapilleta converted to put Castres firmly in control.

Boughanmi replied with his second try and Brock James, who had just replaced Bales, converted with six minutes to play, but Urdapilleta had the final word with a last-minute penalty to take his tally to 16 points.

Second-placed Racing go to Toulouse, who are fifth, in Sunday's late game.