Sloppy Toulon slump at home, Clermont compound Toulouse woes
Champions Toulon slumped to a 28-24 defeat at home to Stade Francais on Saturday in a match where they paid a heavy price for squandering 20 points with the boot.
Paris: Champions Toulon slumped to a 28-24 defeat at home to Stade Francais on Saturday in a match where they paid a heavy price for squandering 20 points with the boot.
It was Stade`s first win at the Stade Mayol in six years and moved them into second spot in the Top 14 table, one point behind Clermont who handed Toulouse a third consecutive defeat in a 13-9 triumph.
Stade, the 2007 champions, scored both their tries in the opening period through lock Alexandre Flanquart after Fijian centre Waisea Nayacalevu had been held up just short of the line.
Their second arrived after 34 minutes when Julien Plisson`s kick ahead was charged down but Stade kept possession allowing Jonathan Danty to burst through a flat-footed Toulon defence before freeing Julien Arias to score.
Both conversion attempts were missed allowing Frederic Michalak to keep Toulon in touch at 13-12 down at the break through four penalties.
Toulon were in front early in the second period when prop Xavier Chiocci barrelled over and Michalek added the extras for 19-13.
But once the Toulon fly-half was replaced with a shoulder injury, he took his team`s kicking boots with him with James O`Connor, Delon Armitage and replacement Eric Escande missing a succession of kicks which could have eased their team`s problems.
As it was, Plisson showed them the way with 14 points including a late drop goal after Toulon had pulled to 24-25 when Australian winger Drew Mitchell scored a try in the corner after a spectacular offload by Escande.
Former four-time European champions Toulouse had previously suffered two confidence-sapping away defeats, to newly-promoted La Rochelle (37-25) and Brive (26-19).
And Guy Noves` team never looked like breaching the teak-tough defence of Clermont, for whom it was a first ever victory at Toulouse`s Ernest Wallon Stadium.
A tight opening 40 minutes, with Clermont in field control but Toulouse looking lively on the counter-attack, finished at six points apiece thanks to two penalties each from Toby Flood and Camille Lopez.
Former All Black prop Neemia Tialata, one of Toulouse`s off-season signings from Bayonne, came off in the 36th minute clutching his shoulder, much to the concern of Noves.
Toulouse`s front-row woes already see Georgian prop Vasil Kakovin struggling with a tibia injury, South African prop Schalk Ferreira (biceps) out until January and compatriot tighthead Gurthro Steenkamp on Four Nations duty with the Springboks.
Samoan giant Census Johnston was also absent, while former `Bok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is in playing limbo over a doping case.
Toulouse`s Springbok scrum-half Jano Vermaak, prominent throughout the first period, could do nothing to prevent the game`s sole try awarded to Julien Bardy early in the second-half even though he seemed to be clearly held up over the line by another former All Black Corey Flynn.
Lopez converted to stretch Clermont out to 13-6, which could have been further extended had Fijian flyer Napolioni Nalaga held on to a pass with the line abegging.
Tiatia re-emerged on the pitch with 15 minutes to play, to the relief of Noves and his backroom staff.
Flood then missed a straightforward penalty and replacement Jean-Marc Doussain was guilty of whiteline fever with an overlap screaming for the ball.
Veteran Clermont flanker Julien Bonnaire was lucky not to get penalised after hacking a ball out of a scrum but his captain Damien Chouly was pulled up a minute later, Flood opting to kick for touch.
The maul off the line-out came to nothing, but Flood kicked an injury-time penalty to seal a losing bonus point to jeers and whistles from the home crowd.
In Friday`s match, veteran Fijian winger Sireli Bobo ran riot as he helped lift newly-promoted La Rochelle off the bottom of the Top 14 table with a 41-16 victory over Castres.