The curtain fell on 2011 with Toulouse extending their lead at the top of the Top 14 table, after Clermont Auvergne were held up at Lyon. Elsewhere there were surprise victories for Bordeaux-BÃ¨gles and Biarritz.
Toulouse 30 “ 15 Bayonne
Not a single try was scored on Friday night at the Stade Ernest-Wallon, despite 45 points being racked up in total.
In a battle of the boots, it was Toulouse pivot Lionel Beauxis who came out on top, racking up eight penalties and two drop-goals in a scrappy affair.
The visitors struck first, however, with Bayonne fly-half Benjamin Boyet striking in the third minute. After a penalty-strewn first half, it was Toulouse edging it with a lead of 15 points to 12.
The second half belonged to the hosts, with the classy Beauxis landing another 15 points, and Boyet only managing a single penalty in reply. The away side were not helped by ill-discipline which saw back-row Robin Linde and replacement prop Denis Avril both see yellow in the second period.
The victory for Toulouse means they enter the New Year with a five point cushion over their closest rivals Clermont, and are now undefeated in seven league games. Bayonne are now without a win in four, and are now just two points away from the relegation zone.
Montpellier 29 “ 14 Racing MÃ©tro
Montpellier closed the gap to the top half of the table to just three points, as their confident victory over Racing left them just behind their opponents going into 2012.
Things started well for Racing, with RÃ©my Vaquin crossing in the eighth minute for the visitors. Montpellier wing Martin Bustos Moyano responded instantly with a penalty before the hosts scored their first try through captain Fulgence Ouedraogo in the 16th minute.
The score remained 8 “ 7 to Montpellier until the 55th minute when Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, and then the floodgates opened. Santiago Hernandez became the third Argentine to score points for Montpellier as he added a third, and Sakiusa Matadigo looked to have given Montpellier a bonus-point victory with his side's fourth try in the 76th minute.
Racing were to have the last say however, when Sireli Bobo scored in the final minute to deny the hosts what could be at the end of the season a crucial point.
Castres 33 “ 6 Perpignan
Heading into Saturday's fixture, Castres were without a win in five games, whilst Perpignan had just ended a run of six straight defeats with a confident victory over Bordeaux. It may, then, have been reasonable to expect a much closer contest, as two teams seemingly in opposite directions both sought to end 2011 on a high note.
It did not turn out that way. The hosts lead 13 “ 3 at half time, after a try from Steve Malonga and penalties from South African scrum-half Rory Kockott, with Welsh international James Hook kicking Perpignan's only points of the half.
Hook then put his side within a try of Castres with a second penalty right after half time, but it would be Perpignan's final score of the game. Two more Kockott penalties stretched Castres lead, before two tries in the final ten minutes, first from Kockott himself, and then Pierre Bernard gave Castres a bonus point victory to revitalise their season, as well as move them back into third place.
For Perpignan, it appears to be back to the drawing board. They Catalans now have the worst defence in the league, with the most points conceded (333), and most tries conceded (26).
Bordeaux-BÃ¨gles 39 “ 6 Stade FranÃ§ais
The biggest upset of the New Year weekend was at Bordeaux; where the promoted side shocked Stade with a stunning second half display to move well clear of the relegation spots with a bonus point victory.
Argentine fly-half Felipe Contepomi gave Stade a six point lead after 20 minutes with two penalties, before the home side drew level before half time, through a Bruce Reihana penalty and a drop-goal from Camille Lopez.
Whatever was said to Bordeaux at half time worked wonders, with the hosts scoring a lightning three tries in just eight minutes. Lopez, Blair Connor and Heini Adams crossed before many punters had chance to return to their seats, and with half an hour to go, the game was over as a contest with Bordeaux leading 27-6.
Louis-Benoit Madaule scored a fourth for Bordeaux while the visitors were reduced to 14 men, before Connor scored a second with the last play of the game to give Bordeaux a massive psychological boost going into the New Year. Stade's run of four wins in a row has been abruptly stopped, as has their rise up the table as Agen move ahead of them.
Agen 15 “ 9 Brive
Again Brive were involved in a close game, only to finish on the losing end of the result, as Agen kept up their play-off challenge with a try-less encounter on Saturday.
The hosts only managed one score to Brive's two in the first half as Julien Caminati out-kicked Conrad Barnard in a half that saw each side have a man sent to the sin-bin.
It was Agen that bossed the second half, with four more penalties from Barnard, whilst Brive could only manage one more. Both the sides would end the match with reduced numbers in a headed game, with Brive ending the game with just 13 players on the pitch.
The result means that Brive have now not won in six, and are hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone. Agen leap above both of the Paris clubs, and will believe that they can remain there come the end of the season.
Lyon 6 “ 6 Clermont Auvergne.
Following their narrow 9 “ 6 victory over Brive last weekend, Clermont were again uninspiring as they failed to overcome 13th placed Lyon, losing ground to Toulouse in the process.
Lyon scored the only points of the first half, through former Wasps full-back Mark van Gisbergen, before Clermont fought back, first through a Morgan Parra penalty, and then a David Skrela drop goal in the 51st minute.
The title challengers couldn't finish the game off though, and it was van Gisbergen again with a penalty with 20 minutes remaining who levelled the scores.
The draw kept Lyon off the bottom of the table as the teams head into 2012, but it will worry Clermont as the league's top try scorers failed to score a try for a second game in a row, and made it just 15 points in their last two games.
Biarritz 25 “ 6 Toulon
Biarritz will go into 2012 with the ignominious award of being bottom of the Top 14, but they did at least end the year with a victory.
At the start of the season, the Basque side would have been expecting to be challenging Toulon for the play-off spots, and given the two teams performances on Saturday you would think that it was Biarritz in the top four, and Toulon bottom.
Biarritz led 19 “ 0 at the break, Marcello Bosch scoring the only try of the game after just five minutes. Dimitri Yachvilli added eleven first half points of his own, before the Argentinean Bosch extended the home side's lead with a drop-goal at the end of the half.
Toulon talisman Johnny Wilkinson then exchanged points with Yachvilli but the away side could not get near their hosts, as Toulon put in their worst performance since the return of their internationals. Biarritz on the other hand showed again glimpses of what they are capable of with just their second victory in eight games.