Ex-All Black Kerr-Barlow scores but La Rochelle fail to go top

Paris (AFP) –


Former New Zealand scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow crossed but La Rochelle failed to take over as leaders of the French Top 14 despite Sunday's 20-6 home win against Bordeaux-Begles.

Kerr-Barlow opened his account for the season as his side moved to third in the table and the visitors, who were top when last season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, remain winless since September 12.

The hosts' coach Jono Gibbes was forced into two changes to his starting lineup with South Africans Wiaan Liebenberg and Raymond Rhule coming in for No. 8 Gregory Alldritt and winger Arthur Retiere on Test duty with France.

Gibbes' counterpart Christophe Urios handed Australia back-rower Scott Higginbotham his first start of the campaign after recovering from a knee injury suffered during pre-season.

Matthieu Jalibert was named on Urios' bench after being released to his club from les Bleus' squad for unspecified medical reasons.

At Stade Marcel-Deflandre, fly-half Jules Plisson opened the scoring for the home side with a ninth minute penalty.

Kerr-Barlow crossed the whitewash eight minutes later after clinically sniping from a ruck following a Geoffrey Doumayrou break.

La Rochelle's first half dominance and confidence with ball in hand continued as Plisson chipped from inside his own half before Jeremy Sinzelle crossed in the corner.

Plisson added the extras to make it 17-0 at the break before driving rain began to fall.

Jalibert replaced Ben Botica at the interval before he and Plisson traded shots at goal and Gibbes' men led 20-3 with a quarter of an error-strewn second half impacted by the wet conditions remaining.

The home side went looking for a third try and the crucial bonus point but Jalibert kicked another penalty to close the gap to 14 points with 10 minutes to go.

Despite spending the closing minutes deep inside opposition territory Gibbes' side failed to cross for a third time and missed the chance to take top spot.

Earlier, Springboks Cobus Reinach and Jan Serfontein were crucial in Montpellier's 30-6 bonus point win over Brive.

World Cup winner Reinach set-up two tries and Serfontein, who last played for his country in 2017, crossed the whitewash on two occasions in Johan Goosen's first match since February.

On Saturday, Reinach's fellow world champion Cheslin Kolbe pulled out of Toulouse's 16-7 loss at home to Lyon just before kick-off with a back problem.