Leaders Toulouse cling on for narrow win over Montpellier

Paris (AFP) –


Romain Ntamack scored an early try for Toulouse but the French champions had to scrap hard to secure a narrow 17-15 win at Montpellier in round three of the Top 14 on Saturday which maintains their perfect start to the season and their place at the top of the table.

Leading 17-10, Toulouse had to play the last five minutes with just 13 men on the field because of a yellow card and a lack of props. Vincent Rattez pulled back a try for the home side but Paolo Garbisi missed the touchline conversion which would have levelled the scores.

"We knew it was going to be hard, that Montpellier would not give up," said Toulouse full-back Thomas Ramos.

France fly-half Ntamack struck first with a try in the first minute which Ramos converted.

Early in the second half, Ntamack then set centre Lucas Tauzin away for Toulouse's second try.

Scrum-half Martin Doan reduced the gap for the home side but Montpellier had to concede their first loss of the season and settle for a defensive bonus point.

Toulouse made it three wins out of three and head the Top 14 table with 13 points, three ahead of Lyon, Brive and Castres.

- Herron's boot -

English fly-half Brett Herron produced a masterclass with the boot, claiming 23 points as promoted Biarritz stunned visitors Racing 92 28-19.

The former Ulster and Harlequins playmaker was in devastating form with the boot, on target with a conversion and seven penalties.

With the rain falling at the Stade Aguilera, Herron missed an early sighter, his only failure of the afternoon, but soon put Biarritz on the board.

Home hooker Lucas Peyresblanques muscled over from close range but Racing hit back when Kurtley Beale set up Juan Imhoff for a try. Herron's boot, though, gave Biarritz a 13-5 lead at the break.

He then popped over another five penalties in the second half as Biarritz took a grip on the match.

Brett Herron kicked 23 points in Biarritz's 28-19 win over Racing92
Brett Herron kicked 23 points in Biarritz's 28-19 win over Racing92 GAIZKA IROZ AFP

Racing did spark on the hour when hooker Camille Chat notched their second try and three minutes from time Baptiste Chouzenoux also plunged over but it was not enough to save Racing from their first defeat of the season.

"We had a great time winning like that and I think the public enjoyed it too," said Biarritz captain Romain Lonca.

- Castres salvage draw -

A late penalty by Benjamin Urdapilleta saw Castres grab a last-gasp draw at home to Bordeaux-Begles.

Castres, who had won their opening two matches, took the early initiative through Gaetan Barlot's seventh-minute try but three Francois Trinh-Duc penalties kept Bordeaux in touch.

They trailed 13-9 at the break but soon took control of the match with Ben Lam and Cameron Woki both touching down shortly after the restart.

Uruguayan scrum-half Santiago Arata burrowed his way through to give Castres hope on the hour although their hopes appeared to be dashed shortly after when South African lock Ryno Pieterse was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Maxime Lucu.

Four minutes from time, however, an ever-cool Urdapilleta stepped up to level the match at 23-23.

New Zealand coach Jono Gibbes got the better of former employers La Rochelle as Clermont edged a 23-22 win in the pouring rain at Stade Marcel-Michelin.

Fijian forward Peceli Yato and 20-year-old French centre Tani Vili scored Clermont's tries while back-rower Matthias Haddad's last-gasp score allowed La Rochelle to take home a defensive bonus point.

La Rochelle, last season's losing Top 14 and Champions Cup finalists, are still without a win this season.

Lyon ran in seven tries in a 47-3 hammering of Perpignan and Brive beat Pau 30-13.