La Rochelle upset Top14 Champions Toulon

Australian centre Mali Hingano’s try in the last move of the match gave hosts La Rochelle a thrilling 32-30 win over French and European champions Toulon on Saturday and a huge boost to their hopes of remaining in the Top 14.

The 23-year-old — one of four try scorers for the hosts — produced a delightful pivot to go over and touch down and the significance of the score was reflected in the celebrations with head coach Patrice Collazo bursting into tears.

Former Springbok international Peter Grant added the extras leaving the losers, who showed 14 changes from the starting line-up that beat Leinster in last week’s European Champions Cup semi-finals, at least the consolation of a bonus defensive point and they lead Clermont by four points in the table.

La Rochelle — who had already beaten Toulouse and drawn with Stade Francais at home this season — moved up to provisional eighth and have an eight point advantage over second from bottom Castres, though they play later.

“It is a little big magical, it is for these moments that we play this game. It is certainly a good omen and great for the confidence but we still have work to do with trips away to Lyon and Bayonne,” said La Rochelle’s France international flanker Loann Goujon.

It was tough on mercurial Toulon fly-half Frederic Michalak, who shrugged off the outburst over his being replaced early in the second-half of the Leinster game with 19 points and gave himself a chance of playing in next weekend’s European final against fellow French side Clermont.

La Rochelle went ahead with a splendid fourth minute try by right wing Alofa Alofa who chipped over the Toulon defence and ran on to touch down — converted by Fabien Fortassin for 7-3.

However, Toulon struck back immediately stretching the La Rochelle defence this way and that before Josua Tuisova went in in the right hand corner — Michalak converted for 10-7.

A pulsating encounter then saw 39-year-old veteran Sireli Bobo display all his experience in seeing a gap and bursting through to touch down under the posts for his 50th try in elite French rugby — Fortassin converted for 14-10.

Mamuka Gorgodze did his prospects of playing some part in the European Champions Cup final no harm when he went over for the visitors second try.

Michalak, who had landed a penalty prior to that, converted for 20-14.

However, the hosts struck back.

Impressive teenage centre Elliott Roudil placed a perfect grubber kick behind the Toulon defence and fullback Kini Murimurivalu had the legs to get to the ball first and touch down.

The hosts were denied a clear try five minutes from the break when scrum-half Julien Audy went over but the referee instead of reviewing the move persisted in awarding them a penalty which Fortassin converted for 22-20.

Toulon regained the lead with another Michalak penalty in the 54th minute.

Michalak added another penalty but Grant reduced the deficit to a point before Michalak knocked over another three pointer for 29-25 — however that was not enough as the indefatigable hosts stole it at the end.

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