Kolbe returns as Toulouse hammer lowly Agen

Paris (AFP) –


Toulouse defence coach Laurent Thuery praised South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe's attitude as he played his first game since mid-December to help Toulouse return to the Top 14 summit on Saturday with a 59-0 rout of bottom side Agen.

Kolbe, who missed four games with a finger injury, set up the league's top try scorer Matthis Lebel for one of his three efforts.

"Cheslin played a serious game on the wing and a little bit at full-back in the second half," Thuery told the post-match press conference.

"He applied himself throughout the match. It's good for next week and the match against La Rochelle. We're going to need everyone one," he added.

The record 20-time champions move back to the top of the table after La Rochelle, where they head next Sunday, had taken the lead with Friday's 40-3 hammering of Bayonne.

The weekend's fixtures were brought forward by the National Rugby League (LNR) to fill the gap left by the cancellation of European games due to fears of the new coronavirus variant in Britain and Ireland.

In addition to Lebel's hat-trick, which took the 21-year-old's season tally up to 11 in 12 league matches, hooker Julien Marchand, lock Emmanuel Meafou, scrum-half Antoine Dupont, flanker Alban Placines and substitute Peato Mauvaka were also on the scoresheet to inflict a record equalling 15th straight loss on the home side.

Former New Zealand loose forward Jerome Kaino, who lifted the Webb Ellis trophy twice, came off the bench with half an hour to play for his first appearance in 10 weeks after recovering from an ankle issue.

Earlier, France centre Virimi Vakatawa suffered a knee injury as his Racing 92 side lost 33-32 at home to Bordeaux-Begles.

Vakatawa, who scored twice in six Tests last year, is due to join Les Bleus as they meet on Monday for a camp in Nice before travelling to Italy on February 6 for the Six Nations opener.

Newspaper Midi Olympique reported Vakatawa will undergo examinations on Sunday.

"To say the truth, it happens. I'm sad for him, he's my brother, he's my mate, but it's rugby," Racing winger Juan Imhoff said.

"Unfortunately it happened to him. We don't know what he has. It's part of rugby, it happens."

- More Montpellier woe -

Television images showed Vakatawa icing his knee inside the changing rooms after leaving the field.

Australia full-back Kurtley Beale hit the post as he attempted a late match-winning penalty at La Defense Arena for the home side.

The visitors moved up to fifth in the table, three points behind the third-placed Parisians who suffered their second straight home defeat.

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell made his 50th Racing appearance since joining in 2018 and is likely to miss the next seven weeks of club action due to Test duty.

Elsewhere, Montpellier suffered an eighth straight loss after a 21-16 defeat to Lyon and remain in the relegation play-off spot.

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who took over from sacked Xavier Garbajosa earlier this month, dropped eight players including former Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis and England centre Alex Lozowski.

On Sunday, Kaino's former New Zealand team-mate Ma'a Nonu will miss Toulon's meeting with Stade Francais after Brive head to Pau.