Townsend drop goal crucial for Castres

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The Independent Online

Gregor Townsend, the Scotland fly-half, kept French interest in the Heineken Cup alive when he landed a first-half drop goal which helped Castres to a thrilling 22-21 quarter-final victory over visiting Montferrand yesterday.

More than anything else, though, Townsend and his team-mates owed their passage into the semi-finals of Europe's senior club competition to a blunder by the new sensation of French rugby, the 21-year-old wing Aurelien Rougerie, who fumbled a pass in the dying seconds with the home try-line at his mercy.

The Castres wing Romain Froment scored the game's only touchdown midway through the second half following a five-metre scrum and the rest of the hosts' points came from the boot of their scrum-half, Romain Teulet. In reply, Montferrand's international fly-half, Gérald Merceron, warmed up for next Saturday's Six Nations' appointment with Italy in Paris by kicking seven penalties.

Rotherham displayed Latin fluency as they opened up a seven-point lead over Worcester with a game in hand in National League One by seeing off their main rivals 18-8 at Clifton Lane yesterday. The Spanish wing Oriol Ripol ran in the Yorkshire side's two tries and their Italian fly-half Ramiro Pez supplied a conversion and two penalties.

Rudolph Straueli, the former Springbok No 8 who played a couple of seasons for Bedford in the late 1990s, has emerged as one of the leading candidates to succeed Harry Viljoen as South Africa's national coach.

Straueli, who won 10 caps, is currently the coach of the Super 12 side, the Sharks. His main rival for the position, which was vacated when Viljoen announced his shock resignation a fortnight ago, is the Stormers' Gert Smal.

Rian Oberholzer, the managing director of SA Rugby, said that if either man accepted the job, he would have to quit his post during the forthcoming Super 12 campaign. "We play Wales a mere 10 days after the Super 12 final and I think it would be unfair for a coach to try to win a semi-final or final and then put together a squad in so little time," Oberholzer said.

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