Toulon beat Clermont as Stade crash in Top 14

 Toulon took top spot in the French Top 14 on Saturday with a 25-19 win over old foes Clermont, the team they defeated in last season’s Heineken Cup final.

Toulon had a point to prove, having lost 25-22 last weekend to promoted Oyonnax.

Australian back Matt Giteau was the star for Toulon in the inaugural match in front of 35,600 spectators at the new Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice.

He kicked six penalties and converted Maxime Mermoz’s 29th-minute try as Toulon went top ahead of Montpellier and Toulouse although all three sides having 27 points.

Australian fly-half Brock James kicked four penalties for Clermont and converted Damien Chouly’s 23rd-minute try, but they paid for some ill discipline with both South African flanker Gerhard Vosloo and Loic Jacquet sin-binned in either half.

The win will give Bernard Laporte’s side confidence ahead of their European Cup opener against Cardiff in Nice in a week’s time.

“Everyone knows that the road to the title is a long one,” said Toulon forwards coach Jacques Delmas.

“It’s always easier to play when you are winning rather than losing and now we will work towards the European Cup next week.”

Clermont coach Vern Cotter admitted that Brock James’s failure to land four relatively easy penalties was a crucial factor.

“There were points we missed there, that’s a fact,” said Cotter.

“We took risks and they were followed by us losing the ball.”

Four-time European champions Toulouse swept past previous Top 14 leaders Stade Francais 28-10 with winger Yoann Huget grabbing a hat-trick of tries.

Stade were without inspirational skipper and No 8 Sergio Parisse with a back injury.

And Toulouse made the most of the Italian’s absence to extend their perfect home record.

Stade had also been beaten at Toulouse last season, suffering a 43-16 mauling.

Montpellier went second after a six-try, 45-20 win over Oyonnax.

But champions Castres were routed 34-0 by promoted Brive who ran in four tries through Sisaro Koyamaibole, Elia Radikedike, Andrew Ma’ilei and Said Hireche.

Racing-Metro are in mid-table after losing 22-20 to Grenoble.

Racing were 20-16 ahead with just six minutes left but Valentin Courrent then kicked two late penalties to give Grenoble their fifth win of the season.

Rock-bottom Biarritz slumped to their eighth defeat in nine matches when they were defeated 16-12 by Perpignan on Friday.

In an error-hit, scrappy affair, Perpignan grabbed the only try of the night six minutes into the second half when captain and hooker Guilhem Guirado was driven over by his pack.

Welsh full-back James Hook added the conversion for a 13-9 lead after French scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili had kicked Biarritz into a 9-6 lead.

Yachvili then made it four successful kicks in four attempts to pull Biarritz to within a point at 13-12.

He then missed for the first time just after the hour before Hook landed a monster penalty to give Perpignan breathing space at 16-12 and their first away win of the Top 14 season.

Hook had crossed the try-line in the first half but saw his score ruled out for a knock-on.

Biarritz, the five-time French champions, remain bottom of the table, eight points from safety with their only consolation being a losing bonus point from the match.

French Top 14 result on Saturday:

Toulon 25 Clermont 19
Bordeaux 34 Bayonne 6
Brive 34 Castres 0
Montpellier 45 Oyonnax 20
Racing-Metro 20 Grenoble 22
Toulouse 28 Stade Francais 10

Biarritz 12 Perpignan 16

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