Springbok Morné Steyn’s long-range kicking capability took centre stage as Stade Francais overcame the early Red Carding of captain Sergio Parisse to beat Parisian rivals Racing-Metro 28 / 19 in Top 14 action on Sunday.
The win leaves Stade in 4th in the table behind leaders Toulon, Clermont and Toulouse, with Oyonnax in 5th above Racing in 6th.
With just 2 games of the regular season to play, the pressure will be on in the fight to nail down a spot in the top 6 for the end-of-season play-offs.
Parisse was shown a straight Red Card after making contact with Racing fullback Brice Dulin contesting a 19th-minute up-and-under on the home side’s tryline.
The Italy No 8 had been pulled back by Bernard le Roux as he approached Dulin, but international referee Jerome Garces had no hesitation in brandishing Red after checking television replays.
“I’m disappointed with the Red Card,” Parisse told Canal+ television. “But to win here away from home with 14 men is great.
“It’s a magnificent victory.”
A man short for three-quarters of the match, Stade mounted a robust rearguard action, boosted by the unerring boot of Steyn, who has had to play second fiddle to the now-injured Jules Plisson for most of the season but bagged 23 points in brilliant sunshine in northwest Paris.
Steyn and Racing’s Ireland playmaker Jonathan Sexton traded 2 early penalties apiece in a tight opening.
After Parisse had been dismissed, Sexton and Steyn notched up their 3rd penalties.
As Stade took the game to Racing, referee Garces showed home prop Luc Ducalcon Yellow after a number of infringements.
Steyn booted his 4th penalty on the half-hour from 52m, with the Racing scrum in disarray in Ducalcon’s absence, the South African going on to make it 5 from 5 on the stroke of halftime.
Steyn, who has amassed 688 points in 59 Tests for the Springboks (only 18 of which were losses, 8 times to Australia and 7 times by New Zealand), added a 6th immediately into the 2nd half.
And then the killer blow came just 2 minutes later when Stade scrumhalf Julien Dupuy’s deft chip into the corner was gathered acrobatically by winger Jeremy Sinzalle who did well to ground the ball in the corner despite Juan Imhoff’s attentions.
Steyn made no mistake with the touchline conversion.
Stade were reduced to 13 men in the 54th minute after Dupuy was Yellow-Carded for a cynical knock-on as Racing attacked.
Sexton spurned a shot at the posts and kicked for touch, scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud eventually scrambling over for a try from the driven maul.
Steyn made a hash of 2 penalty attempts before nailing a 7th to stretch the visitors’ lead to 9 points in what was ultimately an emphatic away victory and city bragging rights.
In Saturday’s action, Toulon showed no signs of a hangover after their unprecedented 3rd consecutive European title with a 5-try 37 / 21 demolition of struggling Castres.
Clermont shrugged off their European misery with a 37 / 17 win at Grenoble which kept them in 2nd spot while Toulouse, the 17-time champions, maintained their push for a semi-final place with a 9-try 67 / 19 rout of Brive to go 3rd.
Bordeaux kept their play-off hopes alive with a 26 / 23 win over Oyonnax.
Montpellier, level with Bordeaux on 55 points, stay in 8th spot, 3 points off the top 6, after the team coached by former South Africa World Cup winner Jake White beat struggling Bayonne 33 / 16.
Top 14 results:
Racing-Metro 19 / 28 Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles 26 / 23 Oyonnax
Grenoble 17 / 37 Clermont
Lyon 16 / 16 La Rochelle
Montpellier 33 / 16 Bayonne
Toulon 37 / 21 Castres
Toulouse 67 / 19 Brive
Top 14 table (played, won, drawn, lost, points for, points against, bonus points, total points):
Toulon 24 15 0 9 675 486 10 70
Clermont 24 14 1 9 579 428 9 67
Toulouse 24 15 0 9 539 450 6 66
Stade Francais 24 14 1 9 556 528 7 65
Oyonnax 24 13 0 11 469 451 6 58
Racing-Metro 24 12 2 10 480 469 6 58
Bordeaux 24 11 0 13 641 535 11 55
Montpellier 24 11 2 11 499 452 7 55
La Rochelle 24 10 4 10 490 596 4 52
Brive 24 11 0 13 463 587 4 48
Grenoble 24 10 0 14 570 695 8 48
Bayonne 24 9 1 14 457 498 9 47
Castres 24 10 0 14 467 562 7 47
Lyon 24 7 1 16 430 578 7 37
Play-offs decided for Top 14 hopefuls:
The play-offs for the 2nd promotion spot into the Top 14 were decided in a dramatic end of the regular ProD2 season on Sunday.
Pau top the 2nd division and are already guaranteed promotion to the French elite.
The next 4 teams will play off next Sunday – Mont-de-Marsan host Albi while Perpignan entertain Agen.
The 2 winners will meet in a play-off final in Toulouse on 23 May, the victorious team joining Pau in the Top 14 next season.
Biarritz, the club with the biggest budget (11 million euros) in the ProD2 along with Perpignan, missed out on a play-off spot, losing on the final day of the regular season 29 / 28 to Dax, who will be relegated along with bottom club Massy into Federale 1.
Bullscot’s Rugby-Talk view – Morné Steyn perhaps still in Springboks sights:
You just can’t keep a good man down and with this performance the consummate professional Morné Steyn has shown that it is a bit premature to write off his chances of making it into the Springbok squad for the World Cup in spite of the rise of young gun Handré Pollard and the improving form of Elton Jantjies and, up until his injury, Patrick Lambie.
I know who I would pick in a pressured situation – Steyn it would be, Morné Steyn that is!
Controversial Red card for Parisse:
Below is a short clip showing the incident in which Sergio Parisse ‘earned’ his Red Card. The footage is quite short and too zoomed in to get a complete idea of what happened, specially in the build-up but you can clearly see the pull on Parisse by Bernard le Roux which hindered his leaping into the air to compete for the aerial ball. Will be interesting to see the outcome of this one, will he go to a disciplinary hearing and get a ban for a few matches or will they look at the footage and overturn the Red Card?
At such an important part of the season Stade Francais will be hoping that their captain doesn’t get any further sanction for this. They did very well to pull off this win in spite of playing without Parisse for about three quarters of the match and going down to 13 men for 10 minutes.
What do the punters think, should this have been a Red Card or not?