Clermont Auvergne thump Toulon to regain Top 14 lead
Last Updated: 08/01/17 10:57pm
Clermont made it eight wins in eight home games with a bonus-point 30-6 rout of Toulon to regain the lead of the Top 14.
Having suffered a surprise 26-20 loss to Toulouse last weekend, Clermont bounced back with a dominant four-try performance, reclaiming the top spot they had briefly relinquished to La Rochelle.
Toulon welcomed back veteran French winger Vincent Clerc after a four-month injury absence but he and his fellow backs struggled to make any impression.
Clermont were 8-3 ahead at the interval with Camille Lopez scoring the first half's only try. But they stepped on the gas after the break with a penalty try followed by a score by Wesley Fofana, who intercepted a careless pass by Toulon's Australian full-back James O'Connor, and a late try from centre Remi Lamerat.
Clermont ended the weekend with a one-point lead over La Rochelle and are five ahead of Montpellier in third. Toulon stay fifth, 10 points off the pace.
French international winger Yoann Huget grabbed two late tries to seal Toulouse's 18-15 comeback win at Stade Francais, condemning the Paris side to a first home defeat of the season.
Stade were in control at 15-6 with just 10 minutes left after Jules Plisson, playing instead of the injured Morne Steyn, had kicked four penalties and a drop goal for a perfect five-from-five haul.
Toulouse fly-half Samuel Marques had popped over a penalty either side of the interval to keep the visitors, who had stunned leaders Clermont 26-20 last weekend, in touch.
But the match turned after 63 minutes when Stade lock Paul Gabrillagues was yellow-carded for repeated infringements.
Toulouse pounced to cut the deficit to 15-11 thanks to Huget's opening try on 70 minutes which came just moments after they had been unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty try.
Sebastien Bezy converted for 15-13 before Huget grabbed his second, crucial try almost from the restart after full-back Maxime Medard had caught Stade on the back foot with a smart breakaway.
Bezy missed the conversion but Toulouse clung on for a victory which moved them up to fourth place in the table while Stade are fifth from bottom.
"It's a great win for us," said Toulouse coach Ugo Mola. "In recent games, things didn't go our way. But tonight, it all worked out in our favour."
Stade boss Gonzalo Quesada believes Huget's deciding try should have been ruled out for a forward pass.
"It's tough but we have nothing to reproach the players for. On the contrary, they showed great spirit against a very good Toulouse side."
On Saturday, La Rochelle had snatched top spot with a bruising 22-8 win over an indisciplined Castres who gave up 20 penalties.
Castres scored the first try through South Africa hooker Jody Jenneker but they finished the opening period with Uruguayan skipper Rodrigo Capo Ortega in the sin bin for a dangerous tackle.
No sooner had he returned early in the second half than scrum-half Rory Kockott was also yellow-carded for a similar offence.
Zack Holmes kicked La Rochelle ahead and they never looked back with All Blacks World Cup-winning flanker Victor Vito scoring his first try for the club.
Castres played the last 10 minutes down to 14 men again when replacement prop Yohan Montes was red-carded for appearing to aim a head butt at Mohammed Boughanmi.
Montes had only been on the field for five minutes before he was sent packing.
Brive pushed Grenoble closer to relegation with a 23-22 win with the Top 14's top scorer Gaetan Germain kicking 18 of his side's points.
On Friday, third-placed Montpellier scored three tries through Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo, centre Vincent Martin and former Australian rugby league star Joe Tomane in a 31-26 win against faltering Bordeaux-Begles.