Toulon smash Biarritz in French Top 14

Toulon went top in France on Saturday with a comfortable 36-9 win at misfiring
Biarritz while champions Toulouse needed a try in the sixth-minute of injury
time to beat Bordeaux-Begles 34-32.

Well-funded Toulon ran in three tries against none in reply as they replaced
previous leaders Clermont, who lost at Castres on Friday night.

Both sides were out to bounce back from defeats last week, Biarritz losing
at home to Basque rivals Bayonne, their third straight league defeat, while
Toulon were thrashed in Toulouse for their first loss of the season.

We are happy with such a win. There were some good sequences and the
players showed that they were not happy at having lost to Toulouse, said
Toulon forwards coach Olivier Azam.

They wanted to get back to winning ways. We have had a good start to
the season with some testing away matches. Now we go into the European Cup next
week and we start from zero.

Biarritz had all the early pressure and took the lead after just five minutes
with New Zealand fly-half Matt Berquist despatching a penalty from directly
in front of the posts.

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson levelled the scores with a long-range effort
nine minutes later only for veteran centre Damien Traille to put the home side
back ahead with a drop goal after 17 minutes.

Biarritz stayed on top, but were rocked by a breakaway try from Toulon after
23 minutes when, from a line-out deep inside their own half, Australian centre
Matt Giteau’s deft pass back inside released Steffon Armitage.

The England flanker shrugged off a tackle to power in next to the posts. Wilkinson
converted and shortly afterwards he made it 13-6 with a penalty in front of
the posts.

Biarritz went on the charge and were held up on the Toulon line only for Giteau
to be penalised and yellow-carded for stopping the ball being released at a
ruck. Berquist kicked his second penalty to make it 13-9.

Wilkinson kicked his third penalty from out wide to send the teams in at half-time
with Biarritz ahead 16-9.

The Toulon fly-half connected with a further two penalties early in the second
half to stretch the lead to 22-9 after which American flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya
produced a superb break which took him from near his own goal line deep into
home territory before he was finally brought down by Delon Armitage.

Toulon were reduced to 14 men for the last 10 minutes after Simon Shaw was
yellow-carded.

But after withstanding a bout of sustained pressure, winger David Smith pounced
on a dropped pass with four minutes to go to kick ahead for winger Vincent Martin
to collect and run in for the second try of the day.

Shortly afterwards another breakaway saw Giteau round off the scoring with
a try in the corner.

In Saturday’s late game, Toulouse rallied from 29-10 down in the last 30 minutes
to defeat Bordeaux, but needed a controversial penalty try in the sixth minute
of time added-on to secure the points and go second in the standings.

A try from Australian winger Blair Connor and a double from Fijian star Metuisela
Talebula had put Bordeaux in control.

But Toulouse’s Fijian winger Timoci Matanavou grabbed two second-half tries
to put the champions back on course before Bordeaux conceded a penalty try,
with the home team buckling after a scrum set for a seventh time, five metres
from their line.

I haven’t seen that kind of scenario very often, said Toulouse
backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

But it’s not miraculous because the players deserved to be in that position
and were putting Bordeaux under pressure.

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