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Belleau denies Cruden successful Top 14 farewell

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Toulon (France) (AFP)

A late Anthony Belleau penalty denied ex-New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden a winning send-off in his final French Top 14 game as Toulon drew 19-19 with Montpellier on Saturday.

Cruden, 30, leaves France after two seasons and according to reports he is expected to return to former franchise the Chiefs ahead of the new Super Rugby campaign.

The 50-time All Black international was joined in the starting line-up by France World Cup squad members Louis Picamoles and Guilhem Guirado, who both retired from Test rugby after the tournament.

Toulon coach Patrice Collazo handed Charles Ollivon a first league start since featuring for Les Bleus at the competition, as the French top flight returned after a fortnight's break.

Youngster Belleau slotted two of his four penalty goals inside the opening half an hour after South African full-back Henry Immelman had opened the scoring with one of his own for Montpellier.

Cruden marked his name on the scoreboard with six minutes of the first half to go before Belleau restored the six-point lead at half-time.

Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb extended the advantage, scoring his first try of the campaign with a smart snipe from a bottom of a ruck.

Belleau added the extras and Cruden's side trailed 16-3 after 57 minutes.

The fly-half slotted his second penalty before Immelman's replacement Anthony Bouthier crossed six minutes later and Cruden converted the additional two points to bring the sides level.

Cruden looked to have sealed the win for Montpellier with nine minutes to go with his final penalty in French rugby but 23-year-old Belleau stepped up with four minutes to play to deny the visitors a first away victory of the campaign.

Later on Saturday, champions Toulouse host Clermont in a re-run of June's final and on Sunday Stade Francais and Racing 92 meet in the Parisian derby with both clubs in the relegation zone.

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