Clermont back on track in France's Top 14

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Paris (AFP)

Clermont moved level top of the Top 14 in France on Saturday with a well-worked 28-17 win away to Castres.

The four points for the victory put them level with Racing 92 and Toulouse, both of whom are in action later in the day.

It was the first action in the Top 14 in three weeks, with the opening two rounds of the Six Nations having taken front stage.

Clermont were eager to get back to winning ways after a run of poor results and they were well on top in the first half at the Stade Pierre-Antoine.

South African winger Flip Van Der Merwe opened the scoring with a try in the corner after 13 minutes and it was veteran fly-half Brock James who made it 13-0 with two penalties.

It was a vastly different story at the start of the second half with Castres launching an offensive that ended with Remi Lamerat squeezing over for a try that Benjamin Urdapillet converted from near the touchline.

James kept Clermont clear with another penalty after 55 minutes, but an interception try from the halfway line from Samoa winger David Smith made it 16-14 and Castres went ahead for the first time shortly after with a penalty from Urdapillet.

But it was the visiting side that finished the stronger with tries in the last six minutes from James and Sébastien Vahaamahina settling the issue.

In Friday's opening match of the weekend reigning champions Stade Francais kept alive their hopes of retaining their title with a crucial 32-17 win at home to Brive.