Matsushima sends Clermont third with landmark try

Paris (AFP) –


Japan full-back Kotaro Matsushima scored his record 10th try of the season as Clermont beat Brive 37-27 at home to move within four points of the French Top 14's semi-final play off places on Saturday.

The hosts, who last won the title in 2017, climbed to third spot above Racing 92, who lost 35-22 to Stade Francais in the Parisian derby earlier in the day, as three postponed fixtures were played on the weekend of the European Champions Cup semi-finals.

Clermont coach Franck Azema, who will be replaced by former New Zealand forward Jono Gibbes next season, made just one change from last weekend's loss at Lyon as No.8 Jaco Van Tonder made his first appearance since February due to a shoulder issue.

Matsushima's effort came after eight minutes as he finished in the corner from Morgan Parra's looped pass as he beat his previous best of nine tries scored in a season in 2017-2018 for the Sunwolves and Suntory Sungoliath.

Clermont led 20-6 at the interval after France lock Arthur Iturria opened his try account for the season and Brive fly-half Thomas Laranjeira responded with two penalties.

Hooker Etienne Fourcade and winger Alivereti Raka added second-half efforts as Azema's men held off an away fight back which included tries from Kitione Kamikamica, Joris Jurand and Setariki Tuicuvu.

Clermont are now just a win behind second-placed La Rochelle, who host Leinster in the Champions Cup on Sunday for a place in May 22's final against Toulouse.

- Paris derby spoils -

Earlier, an outstanding display of goalkicking from 24-year-old Joris Segonds helped Stade Francais to beat Racing.

Racing scored four tries to Stade's two but the indiscipline of the home side allowed Segonds to nail seven penalties as well as two conversions for a decisive personal tally of 25 points.

It marked a fifth successive defeat in all competitions for Racing, who are eight points behind La Rochelle, and are in danger of slipping up in their bid to finish in the top six and qualify for the play-offs.

France centre Gael Fickou was due to make his final appearance for Stade Francais in that original game before his move across the city to Racing.

A gentleman's agreement saw him sit this game out, looking on from the stands.

Elsewhere, Argentina back-rower Facundo Isa also scored his first try of the season in Toulon's 32-17 victory over already relegated Agen.