Toulouse clinch Top 14 semi-final slot

Baptiste Pace
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Toulouse's centre Florian Fritz runs with the ball

Toulouse's centre Florian Fritz runs with the ball during their French Top 14 rugby union match against Brive at the Ernest Wallon stadium in Toulouse, southwestern France

Toulouse joined Clermont as sure qualifiers for the semi-finals of the French Top 14 on Saturday but were below their best form in a 30-21 home win over lowly Brive.

Stade Francais meanwhile did their hopes of breaking into the all-important top six a power of good by defeating Perpignan 35-31 in Paris.

In other early results on Saturday, Bordeaux defeated Agen 29-15 and Bayonne edged Lyon 20-19 away in a clash opposing the league's bottom two sides. The defeat condemns Lyon to second division rugby next season.

European Cup semi-finalists Clermont made sure of a top two finish by defeating Montpellier 22-9 at home on Friday evening.

The top two sides at the end of the regular season qualify automatically for the semi-finals with the next four teams playing off to fill the remaining two slots.

There are just two games to play after this weekend's action.

Toulouse, shock losers to Edinburgh in the European Cup quarter-finals, have re-focused their efforts on the domestic front but they looked nervous early on after two straight losses.

Brive opened the scoring with a sixth-minute penalty, but Toulouse struck back with tries from French internationals Clement Poitrenaud and Julian Clerc, the latter returning to action after being sidelined for five weeks with a shoulder injury.

The visitors battled back to lead 18-15 at half-time but Kiwi fly-half Luke McAlister sent over five second-half penalties to clinch the win.

"After the first 20 minutes I thought we were going to score 40 points, but unfortunately we were hit by two tries just before the break," said Toulouse coach Guy Noves.

"I told the lads not to get too down on themselves and they would be alright. Thanks to the boot of McAlister we got the job done in the end.

"If we can keep up this level of enthusiasm and willingness to play an attacking game I can be confident for the rest of the season."

Watched by a 10,000 crowd at the Charlety Stadium in the French capital, Stade Francais managed two tries through Argentine prop Rodrigo Roncero, playing his last home game, and Australian flanker George Smith.

But they owed their victory above all to the reliable boot of scrum-half Julian Dupuy who kicked seven penalties and two conversions for a personal haul of 25 points.

Later Saturday, Racing-Metro slumped to a 22-13 loss at Biarritz, but remained in the sixth and final play-off spot, two points ahead of Stade Francais.

Third-placed Toulon and Castres, in fifth, shared a 25-25 draw.