Quade Cooper enjoyed a dream debut for Toulon as they cruised past Montpellier 52-8 at Mayol thanks to a Josua Tuisova hat-trick…..reports Planet Rugby
Jake White had rung the changes from the team that went down at home to Toulouse last week, and with a largely second string outfit, clearly didn’t expect much from the game.
Cooper was the star attraction, earning a guard of honour from the home fans before the game, and while he had highs and lows, it was generally a promising start against weak opposition.
Toulon ran in eight tries in total, with Lachie Turner also grabbing a double after Samu Manoa had opened the scoring with his first try for his new club.
They look to be rounding into form before next week’s Champions Cup opener against Bath as they look to make it four titles in a row.
Toulon should have taken an early lead only for Jonathan Pélissié to miss an easy shot at goal, but they were soon in control when Montpellier lost Bees Roux and Ben Mowen in quick succession to yellow cards.
The former paid the price for his struggles at scrum-time, before Mowen was binned for trying to stop a quick tap penalty. To rub salt into the wounds, he failed to stop the quick tap, and Toulon should have scored, but Delon Armitage failed to pass to his brother outside him with the easiest of two on one opportunities, knocking on as he was tackled.
Toulon finally broke the deadlock after 21 minutes, with their two extra men paying dividends. It was their American second row Manoa who grabbed his first try for Toulon, bursting through in midfield and then showing enough pace to race over from 25 metres out. Pélissié converted to make it 7-0.
Back up to 15, Montpellier still couldn’t cope with the Toulon runners. One burst from Mathieu Bastareaud found Cooper, and he fed Juan Smith, who delivered the final pass back inside for Turner to cross. Pélissié hit the upright with the conversion, having done the same a minute earlier with a penalty, but Toulon led 12-0.
Toulon had another a minute later, again through Turner, with Cooper the creator. After Montpellier were turned over in their own half, the ball was quickly spread to the left and Cooper grubbered through, with Turner proving far too quick for Anthony Floch, to race over. Pélissié added the extras as Toulon seized control.
Ben Lucas finally got Montpellier on the board with five minutes to go before the break, using the interior of the post to convert a penalty after a ruck infringement from Toulon.
Toulon were still in control, but they gave Montpellier a lifeline when Cooper through an ambitious pass and was picked off by Julien Malzieu, who had just enough pace to go the length of the field and score his first try for his new club despite the return of Turner. Lucas missed the conversion and Toulon led 19-8 at the break.
The second half started in the same way as the first, with Toulon on the front foot. Cooper was again heavily involved, and his delayed pass for Josua Tuisova sent the Fijian over.
The winger had his second just before the hour, finishing off on the right after collecting Pélissié’s pass, and he completed his hat-trick two minutes later when Anthony Floch’s grubber bounced straight into his arms and he raced 80 metres to score. Taking over kicking duties, Delon Armitage added the extras to make it 38-8.
Toulon had dominated in the set-piece as they had everywhere else, and after a lineout five metres out Steffon Armitage added to his hat-trick last week as he dropped down over the line after an unstoppable maul.
And they still had time for one more, with Sébastien Tillous-Borde coming off the bench and stepping inside the Montpellier defence as he was released on the left.
The only concern for Toulon came with the withdrawal through injury of Bastareaud, who appeared to have done some damage to his knee and hobbled off in the second half.
Tries: Manoa, Turner 2, Tuisova 3, S Armitage, Tillous-Borde
Cons: Pélissié 3, D Armitage 2, Taylor
Yellow Cards: Roux, Mowen
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Lachlan Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Matthew Stevens, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Konstantin Mikautadze, 19 Mamuka Gorgodze, 20 Théo Belan, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Levan Chilachava.
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Floch, 14 Pierre Berard, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Willem du Plessis, 6 Willem Liebenberg, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Bees Roux.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Sauveterre, 17 Oleg Ishchenko, 18 Julien Delannoy, 19 Kelian Galletier, 20 Ilian Perraux, 21 Anthony Tuitavake, 22 Jesse Mogg, 23 Jacobus Adriaanse,
Venue: Stade Félix Mayol
Referee: Juan Sylvestre