Toulouse blow chance for Toulon scalp

Paris (AFP) –


Toulon breathed a sigh of relief as they edged Toulouse 20-16 in the Top 14 on Sunday to leave the visitors feeling short-changed.

It was a second win from three games for last season's beaten finalists, who travel to leaders Montpellier next weekend.

Toulouse's 20-year-old scrum-half Antoine Dupont got the opening try on his debut following his move from Castres, and when that was converted his new team were 10-0 up away, dominating and looking good for a win.

Tha fans would also have been purring at the four defenders Yoann Huget skipped past before setting up Dupont's finish.

But the travelling contingent had to go home satisfied with a losing bonus point after Anthony Etrillard and Josua Tuisova grabbed tries and Toulon dug in for a precious victory as fly-half Anthony Belleau redeemed a rather shabby home performance.

Earlier Sunday ex-All Black Tom Taylor helped kickstart Pau's season in a vital 30-14 home victory over Lyon.

Having lost their opening two matches, away from their Stade du Hameau, Pau made no mistake in front of their home fans in sometimes driving rain.

Fijian backs Watisoni Votu (2) and Jale Vatubua crossed for tries with three-times capped All Black playmaker Taylor kicking all three conversions and three penalties for a 15-point haul.

Lyon responded with two tries of their own through Dylan Cretin and Australian international flanker Liam Gill, French veteran half-back Frederic Michalak converting both, but it was never enough in a game Pau had full control of.

"Despite conceding a try at the start of the match, we delivered a controlled first half, with lots of energy and good off-the-ball work," said Pau coach Simon Mannix, who previously worked with Racing and Munster and is himself a one-cap All Black.

"After that, it was a bit like the weather: dreadful. But we stay focused... This win was essential for the club but the work must carry on."

After the third weekend of Top 14 action, Montpellier are the only unbeaten team after they continued their winning start to the season by edging out Castres 22-17 on Saturday.

The early-season league leaders already have a four-point lead from Racing 92 at the Top 14 summit.

Racing had little trouble in beating Brive 25-6, while Bordeaux-Begles made it consecutive home wins to start the campaign after backing up their opening victory over Clermont by brushing aside Stade Francais 30-10.

Arguably the performance of the weekend came, however, by La Rochelle, who crushed defending champions Clermont 51-20.

Winger Gabriel Lacroix scored a hat-trick as La Rochelle ran in six tries in a scintillating first half against a Clermont side which had two players yellow carded.

The high-octane game was effectively decided at 43-6 after 40 minutes, with last season's regular-season table-toppers in flying form.