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Wed Apr 23 08:48:07 SAST 2014

Toulon top as Biarritz also stay unbeaten

Luke Phillips, Sapa-AFP | 09 September, 2012 12:240 Comments
A generic Rugby Ball during the International match between England U18 and Australia Schools at Heywood Road on December 13, 2009 in Sale, England
Image by: Matthew Lewis / Getty Images

Star-studded Toulon went top of the Top 14 table on Saturday with a bonus-point 42-12 rout of Bordeaux-Begles seeing them edge one point ahead of similarly unbeaten Biarritz, who beat Montpellier 27-8.

Tries from David Smith, Delon Armitage, Maxime Mermoz (2), Mathieu Bastareaud set up a comfortable fourth victory from four matches for Toulon, who were playing their first home game of the season at their beloved Stade Mayol.

  Scrum-half Emmanuel Saubbusse kept Bordeaux’s score ticking over with four penalties but the southwestern club struggled to cope with the high-tempo game played by Toulon’s expensively assembled side of international all stars.

  In Biarritz, Jean-Pascal Barraque opened the scoring for the home side with a 20th minute penalty but also missed four other effort in the first-half.

  That allowed the visitors to not only stay in the game but even go in on level terms as France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc dropped a goal four minutes from half-time.

  The unfortunate Barraque was replaced seven minutes into the second-half by Julien Peyrelongue, who quickly slotted the hosts, fresh from a morale-boosting 22-17 win over Toulouse last weekend, into a 6-3 lead.

  They were to extend it in the 55th minute profiting immediately from the sin-binning of Montpellier’s Fijian star Timoci Nagusa as the outstanding England 2003 winning back Iain Balshaw went over after being slipped the decisive pass by American flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya.

  Peyrelongue converted for 13-3 and Montpellier’s task became mission impossible when they were further reduced as centre Thomas Combezou was also yellow-carded.

  Biarritz extended their lead when they ran in a second try by Benoit Guyot, which was also converted by Peyrelongue, and added a third in the 67th minute through a brilliant individual effort by 21-year-old scrum-half Yann Legourgues — Peyrelongue adding the two points.

  Combezou redeemed himself slightly when he touched down for a late consolation try for the visitors.

  Biarritz’s Australian coach Jack Isaac, hinting at the high standards now expected at the Basque club, said: “It was an atypical match. We failed to score a bonus attacking point but I felt as if we dominated the match.

  “Our performance was average: we’re capable of scoring without being good. Luckily we scored more. There was a lot of wasted possession, imprecisions, not a lot of continuity, it wasn’t pretty.

  “However, our defence is a strong point at the moment and we’ve worked on that a lot, there’s a spirit of togetherness that gives us more confidence to go looking for victories.”

Isaac added: “Four victories in four matches is very positive before two very tricky away games (against Castres and Racing-Metro) and Bayonne at home.

  “We’ve done what we needed to do to assure our start to the season. We’ll have to change our attitude with these two away games and ask ourselves if we can also score points away from home.”

 Defending champions Toulouse thumped Agen 62-13 and Grenoble notched up an impressive 52-7 victory over Mont-de-Marsan, the Top 14 club with the smallest budget who look set to really struggle this season.

  There was also a welcome win for Perpignan, Wales fly-half James Hook kicking all the Catalan giants’ points as they conquered Bayonne 18-13 at home to get their season up and running after opening the season with three straight losses.

  Stade Francais and Castres fought out a 20-20 draw.

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