Clermont pile on misery for Toulon, Laporte
Paris: Clermont took pole position in the French Top 14 on Friday by deposing bitter rivals Toulon 22-16 to take their four-year undefeated home record to 74 matches.
The victory was revenge for their defeat in last season`s European Cup final to Toulon as well as the 25-19 loss in the campaign`s first league meeting between the two sides.
The result added to Toulon coach Bernard Laporte`s blues after he had seen a 13-match ban extended to a season-ending 16 games earlier in the day.
"It`s a miracle to have won after making so many errors," said Clermont captain Aurelien Rougerie.
"We have a lot of work to do with the end of the season approaching."
Clermont raced into a 13-0 lead at their Stade Marcel-Michelin fortress inside the first 20 minutes after two successful penalties from recalled scrum-half Morgan Parra who was to finish with 17 points.
The 2010 champions then grabbed the only try of the first period on the 18-minute mark after they had snaffled turnover ball.
Experienced centre Rougerie quickly recycled to Napolioni Nalaga and the Fijian winger sprinted from the halfway line to score under the posts with Parra converting.
Just two minutes earlier, Toulon`s All Black lock Ali Williams had an interception try ruled out for a forward pass.
Frederic Michalak, getting a rare start in place of the resting Jonny Wilkinson, knocked over two penalties late in the half to make the score 13-6 at the interval.
But Toulon were left to regret not having made the most of their possession in promising attacking areas.
Despite slipping 16-6 behind to an early penalty in the second half by Parra, Toulon surged back.
Michalak succeeded with a third penalty before prop Xavier Chiocci barrelled over under the posts for his team`s only try.
That made it 16-14 for the home side but Michalak`s conversion brought the two sides level at 16-16.
Wilkinson, one of a host of stars left out of the starting line-up with one eye on the European Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster in two weeks, replaced Michalak with 15 minutes left.
But despite being reduced to 14 men when No8 Fritz Lee was yellow-carded in the closing stages, Parra kept his head to succeed with another penalty for a 19-16 lead for Clermont.
Wilkinson then missed a tricky 45-metre penalty tight on the touchline before Parra had the last say with another penalty in the last minute.
Laporte had earlier seen his 13-week ban for a bitter verbal attack on a referee extended to 16 weeks.
The former French national coach had appealed his initial punishment, but the European champions said Friday that the French Rugby Federation (FFR) had decided to add three more weeks to his suspension.
The ban, which covers referee and player dressing room areas, will end on June 3.
Laporte found himself in the dock after seeing red at referee Laurent Cardona following Toulon`s 22-21 loss to Grenoble on January 4.
Laporte described Cardona as "hopeless" and "incompetent"