Clermont smash Toulouse in Top 14 Rugby

Clermont stretched their unbeaten home record to 61 matches with a bonus-point 38-19 victory over 19-time champions Toulouse in the Top 14 on Saturday.

Guided by Australian playmaker Brock James, Clermont outgunned by four tries
to one a Toulouse side that looked decidedly frail up front.

It was a perfect response after a humbling 30-19 defeat by Top 14 newcomers
Oyonnax last weekend.

Toulouse manager Guy Noves didn’t think the final scoreline reflected the overall
balance of the match.

“With 15 minutes to go we were within touching distance of winning but
we are leaving having conceded almost 40 points and without a defensive bonus
point,” he said.

His Clermont counterpart Vern Cotter sympathised with him.

“The final score does not reflect the match itself, far from it,”
said Cotter, who is in his last season before taking over as coach of Scotland.

“But we rediscovered confidence in our game in the second half and were
able to pull away.”

James and Ludovic Radosavljevic each missed early penalty chances for Clermont,
before the Australian finally opened the scoring in the 16th minute.

Toulouse’s Lionel Beauxis responded almost immediately after Yannick Nyanga
soared high at the re-start to win back possession and eventually a penalty.

Clermont flanker Julien Bardy was then yellow-carded following a ruck infringement
as Toulouse centre Yann David was hauled down after a 60-metre interception.

But Beauxis could only drag the penalty wide, as Toulouse tighthead prop Yohan
Montes followed Bardy to the bin after a scrum collapse.

Beauxis made amends with a deft grubber kick collected by Maxime Medard for
an easy five-pointer under the posts that he also converted.

James notched up a second penalty to keep Clermont in the game at 10-6 and
Bardy crossed soon after following some good build-up work from the flanker
himself and centre Wesley Fofana.

Beauxis pulled the scores level with an early second-half penalty, however,
as Bardy was denied by a great tackle by Medard at the other end.

Clermont’s veteran lock Nathan Hines won the resulting line-out, the ball falling
kindly for prop Thomas Domingo to cross in the corner, James on target with
the conversion.

Beauxis pulled back two smart penalties to peg the home side’s lead back to
a single point.

James hit one of his own and then a drop-goal to calm nerves with Toulouse’s
depleted pack under increasing pressure.

Julien Bonnaire and Wesley Fofana put the icing on the Clermont cake when they
were both on hand to finish off sweeping cross-field moves and help ensure their
team’s formidable home record continued unabated.

Meanwhile, Toulon suffered a first defeat of the season as Jonny Wilkinson
missed a potential match-levelling conversion in the dying seconds in a 28-26
loss at Grenoble.

The former England fly-half made all seven penalties before Matt Giteau’s late
try gave Toulon hopes of snatching a draw, but Wilkinson was off target as Toulon
fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Elsewhere, Bordeaux-Begles edged defending champions Castres 21-20 at the Stade
Chaban Delmas with fly-half Pierre Bernard kicking all of his side’s points,
including a match-winning 75th-minute drop goal.

Bayonne bounced back from last week’s drubbing in Toulouse to beat Perpignan
31-20, backed by tries from southern hemisphere trio Joe Rokocoko, Gabiriele
Lovobalavu and Scott Spedding.

New Racing Metro recruit Jonny Sexton kicked five penalties and converted a
Virgile Lacombe try in a 22-9 win over promoted Oyonnax, while fellow newcomers
Brive were beaten 33-24 at Montpellier.

In Friday’s match, Stade Francais marked their return to the refurbished Stade
Jean Bouin with a crushing 38-

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