Perpignan beat Top 14 champions in opener

Perpignan beat champions Clermont 21-13 on Friday to avenge their defeat in May’s French Top 14 final, but big-spending Toulon slumped to an embarrassing opening defeat to unheralded Bayonne.

Perpignan, who won 13 times at home last season, earned all of their points from the boot, courtesy of five penalties from Jerome Porical and two David Mele drop goals.

Clermont scored the game’s only try from Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga with Australian fly-half Brock James kicking the remainder of his team’s points.

Perpignan secured victory despite playing the last 10 minutes with 14 men after lock Guillaume Vilaseca was red-carded for stamping on Thibault Privat.

European champions Toulouse (pictured) ran in six tries while Stade Francais racked up five in their opening night romps.

Toulouse enjoyed a 44-24 cruise over promoted Agen.

Even without influential former All Black scrum-half Byron Kelleher, who is recovering from a broken jaw, Toulouse, desperate to reclaim the national title they last won in 2008, were strong enough to pick up a bonus point.

But Agen, back in the top flight for the first time since 2007, can take consolation from having scored three tries on a ground where they were humbled 47-0 on their last visit.

Hooker William Servat, centre Yann David and winger Maxime Medard, with the first of a brace, all scored first half tries for Toulouse with Romain Edmond-Samuel crossing for the visitors, who were playing without suspended Fijian winger Rupeni Caucaunibuca.

Toulouse stretched their lead to 44-10 by the 63rd minute with Clement Poitrenaud and Medard running in two more tries.

Agen cut the deficit when Argentine centre Miguel Avramovic and winger Brice Dulin scored late on.

Stade Francais, who finished a lowly eighth last time out, gave new Australian coach Michael Cheika a winning start with a 43-12 victory over Bourgoin.

Bourgoin held their illustrious hosts at 9-9 until the last minute of the first half when French international hooker Dimitri Szarzewski crashed over for his side’s opening try.

Mathieu Bastareaud, Sergio Parisse, Julien Arias and Scottish full-back Hugo Southwell eventually hammered home Stade’s dominance after the interval.

Toulon, who have spent big this summer bringing in international stars such as Australia’s backrow forward George Smith and English winger Paul Sackey, were stunned by a late rally at home by Bayonne.

Despite missing the likes of South African captain Joe van Niekerk, veteran scrum-half Pierre Mignoni and England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, Toulon looked as if they were about to scramble victory when a penalty try gave them a 19-16 lead in the 66th minute.

But with four minutes left, Bayonne, who only survived relegation last season when Montauban were demoted instead because of financial problems, nipped ahead when Yoann Huget went over for his second try of the match.

“This is three points lost,” said Toulon coach Philippe Saint Andre. “But there are 25 matches to go and plenty of points to pick up.

“Bayonne were well-prepared. They started training on June 9 and they were hungry. But we have a lot of new players who have come in and it will take them four or five weeks to get used to the system.”

Biarritz, the European Cup runners-up, edged Montpellier 30-22 while Racing Metro won 23-18 at Brive.

Jonathan Wisniewski, whose place at fly-half will come under threat from newly-arrived Argentina star Juan Martin Hernandez, score one of Racing’s tries and kicked 13 points.

2010/2011 season:

Toulouse 44 Agen 24
Brive 18 Racing-Metro 23
Biarritz 30 Montpellier 22
Toulon 22 Bayonne 26
Stade Francais 43 Bourgoin 12
Perpignan 21 Clermont 13

La Rochelle v Castres

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