The Top 14 started this weekend and we sae wins for Castres, Stade Francais, UBB, Clermont, La Rochelle and Racing 92.
Castres 25-20 Montpellier
Castres got their Top 14 campaign off to a fine start when they claimed a hard-fought 25-20 win over Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium on Sunday.
In a repeat of last season’s final, the champions showed that that triumph was no fluke as they dominated for large periods and eventually outscored their hosts by three tries to two with Scott Spedding crossing for a brace.
Spedding was Castres’ hero as apart from his two tries, he also made a try-saving tackle on Vincent Martin in the game’s closing stages which helped his side to secure the result.
Montpellier opened the scoring in the seventh minute courtesy of a penalty from their new signing Johan Goosen but Castres drew level five minutes later when Benjamin Urdapilleta added a three-pointer off the kicking tee.
The home side dominated for the next 10 minutes and were rewarded midway through the half when Martin Devergie powered his way over the try-line from a line-out drive deep inside Castres’ 22.
Goosen added the extras to give his side a 10-3 lead before Urdapilleta reduced the deficit to four points when he landed his second penalty in the 28th minute.
Another Goosen penalty meant the home side led 13-6 by the half-hour mark but Castres struck back shortly afterwards when Spedding crossed for a deserved try after a strong run from Alex Tulou in the build-up.
Urdapilleta slotted the conversion which meant the teams were level at 13-13 when they changed sides at the interval.
The second half started brightly for Castres and four minutes after the restart their captain, Rodrigo Capo Ortega, went over for their second try after brilliant work from Spedding in the build-up.
And in the 51st minute, Castres extended their lead when Spedding crossed for his second try. This, after Martin Laveau did well with a powerful run inside Montpellier’s 22 and when his progress was halted, the ball was recycled quickly before Julien Dumora offloaded to the former Clermont full-back, who rounded off in the corner.
That was the last time Castres would score points as Montpellier upped the ante on attack in a bid to regain the initiative.
After several attacks, the home side eventually made a breakthrough when Paul Willemse dotted down from close quarters in the 63rd minute and Goosen’s conversion meant Castres now held a narrow 25-20 lead.
In the 73rd minute, the visitors were reduced to 14 men when Camille Gerondeau was yellow carded for playing the ball from an offside position at a ruck deep inside his half.
Montpellier finished stronger and thought they had drawn level in the 79th minute when Martin dotted down in the right-hand corner. But his effort was disallowed when television replays revealed he put a foot in touch after a desperate cover tackle from Spedding at the corner flag.
That was a crucial moment in the bigger scheme of things and helped seal a deserved win for the champions.
Tries: Devergie, Willemse
Cons: Goosen 2
Pens: Goosen 2
Tries: Spedding 2, Capo Ortega
Cons: Urdapilleta 2
Pens: Urdapilleta 2
Yellow Card: Gerondeau
Perpignan 15-46 Stade Francais
Stade Aime Giral
Stade Francais began their Top 14 campaign with a 46-15 win over newly promoted Perpignan.
Leading 29-3 at half-time thanks to an impressive 40 minutes that saw flank Sekou Macalou (2), full-back Kylan Hamdaoui and centre Waisea Nayacalevu cross, Stade were in excellent form early on.
However, a red card for Sergio Parisse on 36 minutes for leading with the elbow in contact offered USAP a possible route back into the game.
New signing Paddy Jackson did cross wide out on 53 minutes and when Perpignan were awarded a penalty try after a strong scrum on the hour mark, they were just 29-15 adrift of the Parisians.
But Stade responded well with scores from Hamdaoui and Piet van Zyl putting the result beyond doubt, as they kick-off with a maximum.
Tries: Jackson, Penalty try
For Stade Francais:
Tries: Macalou 2, Hamdaoui 2, Nayacalevu, Van Zyl
Cons: Steyn 5
Pens: Steyn, Plisson
Bordeaux-Bègles 41-19 Pau
A seesaw encounter in French wine territory eventually saw the home side run away with it thanks to three tries in the final quarter.
Romain Lonca scored twice as did Nans Ducuing to earn Bordeaux a 41-19 win that wasn’t always as comprehensive as it looked.
Baptiste Serin kicked five penalties and two conversions to keep the scoreboard ticking over whilst Pau used three different kickers throughout the match as they constantly looked to stay in touch.
Tom Taylor kicked their opening two penalties before Thibault Daubagna also added his own effort to cancel out Serin’s opening two attempts. Taylor’s fellow All Black Colin Slade kicked himself a penalty to close the gap to 13-12 after Ducuing scored the first of his two tries.
Serin added another three before Daubagna crossed the whitewash to put Pau in the lead. Serin then kicked a further two three pointers before Ducuing’s second try opened up an eight point gap.
Pau had nothing left to respond with and Lonca’s two tries in the final minutes, both converted by Serin, gave the hosts a rewarding first win.
Tries: Ducuing 2, Lonca 2
Cons: Serin 3
Pens: Serin 5
Pens: Taylor 2, Daubagna, Slade
Clermont Auvergne 67-23 Agen
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin
Two tries in the space of five second-half minutes turned a nervous contest in Clermont’s favour as they began their campaign with a win.
Keen to abolish any memories of last year’s woeful campaign by their high standards; Samuel Ezeala and Sipili Falatea both crossed to turn a one point half-time deficit into a 29-16 lead and the home side never looked back.
11 points from the boot of Jake McIntyre coupled with Tamaz Mchedildze’s try had usurped Isaia Toeava’s first-half brace and five points from Greig Laidlaw to send the visitors in 16-15 up at the break.
Ezeala and Falatea then turned the game on its head and Alivereti Raka’s quick double ended the contest as he scored Clermont’s fifth and sixth try to make the score 41-16.
A further four tries in 12 minutes of the final quarter sealed a ten try rout for the hosts as Ezeala sealed his brace, Peter Betham entered to grab a quick fire brace of his own and Apisai Naqlevu also got in the act.
Sandwiched in Clermont’s late rally was a further consolation for Agen but there’s no doubting who got the better of this contest on opening day.
Tries: Toeava 2, Ezeala 2, Falatea, Raka 2, Betham 2, Naqalevu
Cons: Laidlaw 7
Tries: Mchedlidze, Tanga
Cons: McIntyre, Vincent
Pens: McIntyre 3
La Rochelle 28-21 Grenoble
Newly promoted Grenoble reintroduced themselves to the Top 14 and gave a strong account of themselves as they narrowly went down at La Rochelle.
Trailing 18-8 at the break, Grenoble staged somewhat of a comeback when Leva Fifita’s try made it 23-21 with a quarter of an hour to play but Jean-Charles Orioli’s try on 75 minutes sealed the contest.
Eight points from Alexi Bales’ boot coupled with a try from new man Marc Andreu and Brieuc Plessis-Couillaud had given the home side a commanding lead with Grenoble only having a solitary Lolagi Visinia try and a penalty from Franck Pourteau to show for their efforts.
He kicked a further two penalties in the second 40 before Greg Alldritt had scored La Rochelle’s third try to once again extend the gap. But Fifita’s late try bore hope to sealing a memorable win before the home side showed their experience to see out their opening game.
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Andreu, Plessis-Couillaud, Alldritt, Orioli
Pens: Bales 2
Tries: Visinia, Fifita
Pens: Pourteau 3
Lyon 16-16 Toulouse
Matmut Stadium de Gerland
Lyon’s draw at Toulon last year was a memorable one in the Top 14 quarters, this however was one that got away.
Thomas Ramos’ drop-goal with five minutes left sealed a 16-16 draw for Toulouse in Lyon after their former player Jean-Marc Doussain had almost kicked Lyon to victory.
He and Ramos both kicked 11 points in a contest than had Toulouse trailing for much of it. Etienne Oosthuizen’s first-half try had Lyon leading 10-6 at the break but Yoann Huget notched a try for Toulouse to make it 13-10 to the visitors.
Two penalties from Doussain then pushed Lyon back in front but Ramos remained cool under pressure to earn his side a draw.
Pens: Doussain 3
Pens: Ramos 2
Toulon 9-25 Racing 92
The mercurial – and immensely well paid – Finn Russell began justifying both his talent and salary within his first competitive 80 minutes at the Parisian side.
Scorer of two tries as well as 10 points from his boot; the Scotsman single handedly turned what looked to be a kicking contest into a one man show.
Patrice Collazo’s debut at his new Stade Mayol home was an unsuccessful one but his Toulon outfit were made to pay for a 10 minute period in which Racing scored 12 points whilst Malakai Fekitoa was in the sin bin.
Louis Carbonel initially kicked the first points of the game; kicking two first-half penalties to Russell’s one to give the hosts a 6-3 lead at the interval.
Racing then turned the game with their quick burst of 12 points in less than five minutes to make it 15-6 before Carobnel kicked his third penalty to cut the gap.
Racing’s advantage though was hammered home minutes later when the irresistibly quick Juan Imhoff notched his first try of the year. Russell kicked the conversion and a further penalty to make it 25-9 taking his personal haul for the night to 20 points.
No doubting who the star of the show was on opening night, his employers will be hoping it continues. Those on the Cote d’Azur however will be hoping to turn the tables as the season progresses.
Pens: Carbonel 3
For Racing 92:
Tries: Russell 2, Imhoff
Cons: Russell 2
Pens: Russell 2
Thanks to Planet Rugby