Stade Francais climbed off the foot of the Top 14 table as they stunned last season’s champions Toulouse 30-18 in the battle of the French rugby giants.
Dubbed the ‘Clasico’, such status was questioned in the lead-up to Sunday night’s match in Paris. That was because of how far Stade Francais, who like Toulouse have been domestic league champions five times this century, have fallen.
Yet this convincing victory showed all is not lost for the team that parted ways with coach Heyneke Meyer in November, with two tries from flanker Sekou Macalou and one from former Toulouse hero Gael Fickou doing much of the damage.
A pair of early penalties from Thomas Ramos had nudged Toulouse in front, but they trailed 13-6 by the break after Macalou’s first try and a conversion, penalty and drop goal from Nicolas Sanchez.
The lively Fickou darted in to score in the 47th minute, and Macalou grabbed his second moments later, sprinting after Fickou’s clever kick.
A penalty try after a collapsed scrum handed Toulouse a sliver of hope, but the hosts, coached by Julian Arias and Laurent Sempere for now, were not willing to let their winning position slip at Stade Jean-Bouin.
Joris Segonds fired over a penalty that left Toulouse needing three late tries, effectively killing the contest although they got one at the death when Cheslin Kolbe crossed.
FIN DU MATCH | –
— Stade Francais Paris (@SFParisRugby) January 5, 2020
It means Toulouse, fourth going into the weekend, have drifted to seventh place, while Stade nudge up one position to 13th, leaving Agen at the bottom.
Toulon trounced Castres 43-3 at Stade Mayol earlier in the day, helped by three tries in five minutes late in the first half, to reclaim third place after 13 rounds of matches.
After penalty tries for the three-time European champions in the second and 32nd minutes, Louis Carbonel and Romain Taofifenua added to their haul before the interval, with Gervais Cordin and Daniel Ikpefan dotting down after half-time to complete a rout.
Anthony Belleau converted three of the tries and booted a penalty in a match that saw seven yellow cards – three for Toulon, including two for replacement Vernet Corentin who only came off the bench in the 56th minute, and four for Castres.