Castres set up Racing semi after Toulouse win
Castres set up a Top 14 semi-final against beaten European Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 after an Armand Batlle brace of tries helped them to a comprehensive 23-11 victory over Toulouse on Saturday.
The other semi-final sees Montpellier, who topped the standings at the end of the regular season, play Lyon, who drew 19-all with three-time European champions Toulon on Friday but advanced having scored two tries to one.
Castres coach Christophe Urios admitted facing Racing for a place in the final would present a tougher challenge.
"Fear," he said, when asked what emotion Racing evoked in him.
"They beat us twice this season in the Top 14, they are very strong and we all know that they lost a difficult match in the European Cup final against Leinster.
"They also had 15 days to prepare (for the semi-finals), they are all great players. We are going to face a team that are very difficult to move around.
"It's going to be a very physical match again, but we're ready for that."
At a packed-out Stade Ernest-Wallon in beautiful conditions, Batlle crossed for his first try early on, Benjamin Urdapilleta converting.
Toulouse hit back with two penalties from Thomas Ramos, soon nullified by one each from Urdapilleta and Castres' South African-born France international scrum-half Rory Kockott.
Ramos went wide with a third effort in injury time of a first half which Castres dominated in possession and territorial terms, forcing Toulouse into an error-ridden display.
Castres kicked off the second period in perfect fashion, Batlle crossing for his second try after Kockott missed a long-range penalty.
Urdapilleta converted the try to pull Castres out to a healthy 20-6, soon increased when Kockott booted another penalty as Toulouse suffered in the sun.
The home side then enjoyed a rare moment of ascendancy, Italy hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini crossing for a much-needed try as the Castres defence finally cracked on the hour mark.
Toulouse were handed a further chance to get back into the game when Castres hooker Jody Jenneker was red carded, referee Romain Poite left with no choice but to send the South African off for two punches on a prone Maxime Medard.
But it was not to be as a toothless Toulouse failed to take advantage of their numerical advantage against some dour defence.
Friday saw Lyon, who were only promoted to the top flight two years ago, reach the semi-finals for the first time, thanks to outscoring Toulon by two tries to one.
Toulon led 13-6 and then 19-16 in extra-time before New Zealand-born Australian international fly-half Mike Harris booted his third penalty of the match seven minutes from the end to secure the draw and victory.
© 2018 AFP