Kolbe shines as Toulouse bounce back to see off La Rochelle

Paris (AFP) –


Two first-half tries from South African Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe set Toulouse on the road to a 39-23 win over French Top 14 title rivals La Rochelle on Saturday.

Thomas Ramos kicked 24 points as the home side bounced back in style after their opening defeat at Clermont last week ahead of facing Ulster in the Champions Cup quarter-finals next Sunday.

"We score pretty much 40 points but we concede too many. Last week we conceded 33, it's too much," Ramos said in reference to his side's 33-30 loss to Clermont.

"It's important that we won today, we can prepare to host Ulster with a bit more confidence," he added.

Kolbe's opener came after eight minutes when France full-back Ramos found him in space to allow the Springbok an easy run-in to the line.

Kolbe's performance was in stark contrast to that of fellow Bok Handre Pollard who was stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury during Montpellier's defeat at Racing 92 on Friday.

Pollard will have an MRI scan on Monday after being hospitalised following the collision with Racing forward Baptiste Chouzenoux.

La Rochelle hit back after 20 minutes when hooker Pierre Bourgarit scurried through for a try and the conversion by Ihaia West, plus a penalty, brought the scores level at 10-10.

Kolbe, though, put his stamp on the match with his second try just after the half-hour, stepping in off the right touchline to burst through a series of limp tackles and touch down beside the posts.

Leading 20-10 at the break, Toulouse added another penalty before La Rochelle came again with a try from South African full-back Dillyn Leyds.

But the boot of Ramos, who kicked three conversions and six penalties, was remorseless and Sofiane Guitoune's try two minutes from time added the gloss to Toulouse's first win of the season.

- Clermont crumble -

Clermont prepared for next Saturday's European last eight tie with Racing with a late 21-19 defeat at Bayonne.

Full-back Gaetan Germain converted Maxime Delonca's 76th-minute try for the Basques as France winger Damian Penaud opened his account for the season for the visitors.

The home side were given a local exemption to welcome 6,000 people to their Stade Jean-Dauger with the national maximum attendance for gatherings set at 5,000 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bordeaux-Begles, who were top when last season was stopped due to the Covid-19 outbreak, had ex-All Black centre Seta Tamanivalu sent off for charging with his forearm in the 22-20 win over Brive.