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Beale double sends Racing 92 third after 'important' Top 14 win

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Racing92's Australian scrum-half Kurtley Beale (L) fights for the ball against Clermont's Japanese wing Kotaro Matsushima during the French Top 14 rugby union match on May 08. AFP

Beale double sends Racing 92 third after 'important' Top 14 win

Australia full-back Kurtley Beale said Saturday's 45-19 win over Clermont was "important" in their hunt for the Top 14 play-offs as he scored two tries and set up another to send his side third.

Beale's efforts came within two minutes of each other in the first half as the Parisians moved above the visitors thanks to the bonus point, with three games left of the regular season.

"It was important to have that win tonight because it puts us in a good position to go further in the competition," Beale said.

"I'm still kind of starting to find my place. As a team it was a great opportunity to press forward."

It was a chastening day, however, for European Champions Cup finalists La Rochelle and Toulouse.

La Rochelle lost 32-22 at Montpellier after making 15 changes from last weekend's semi-final win over Leinster.

Top 14 leaders Toulouse also changed their starting line-up after their last-four victory over Bordeaux and lost 44-10 at Toulon.

Louis Carbonel scored two of Toulon's five tries and kicked 19 points as his side moved into the play-off spots.

Meanwhile, Beale, 32, who made the last of his 92 Wallabies appearances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, said he had yet to speak to Australia coach Dave Rennie about a Test return.

"I've had not contact back home but that's OK. I'll keep working hard here with Racing," he said.

"I'm very blessed to be at a special club with some special players and I will keep working hard and hopefully I will be able to put my best foot forward when the time is right."

Racing coach Laurent Travers made 10 changes from last weekend's home derby loss to Stade Francais, looking to avoid a fifth straight league defeat.

Travers' Clermont counterpart Franck Azema, who will leave after 11 years at Stade Marcel-Michelin at the end of the season, handed a first Top 14 start to 18-year-old Australian lock Miles Amatosero.

Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra opened the scoring after seven minutes before Beale's quick-fire double at the Paris La Defense Arena, which has also been used as a vaccination centre since Monday.

The former Waratahs playmaker benefitted from a lovely Teddy Thomas break for his first before taking his tally to six tries in 19 games this term from a Finn Russell pass shortly after.

Racing led 31-19 at the break as Thomas and Kevin Le Guen crossed, with Fiji prop Peni Ravai responding for Clermont.

Russell head injury

Beale turned the provider in the second half, freeing France centre Gael Fickou for his first Racing try since joining from Stade Francais last month.

Winger Donovan Taofifenua also scored as Scotland's Russell kicked the conversion two days after he was named in the British and Irish Lions squad for the summer's tour to South Africa.

With eight minutes left Russell left the field for a head injury assessment after a tackle on Clermont's Japan full-back Kotaro Matushima and failed to return to the field.

"He's alright," Beale said of Russell. "I think he just wanted a rest for 10 minutes at the end."

Elsewhere, Elton Jantjies, a member of South Africa's World Cup-winning squad in Japan in 2019, scored seven points in 73 minutes on his Pau debut in the 47-7 hammering of already-relegated Agen.

The result saw Pau move out of the relegation play-off spot, leapfrogging Bayonne after the Basques' 47-22 home defeat by Bordeaux-Begles.

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