Laulala leads Racing to Toulon victory
TOP 14 SUNDAY WRAP: All Black Casey Laulala scored a brace of tries to cap a stunning individual performance and help guide defending Top 14 champions Racing 92 to a comprehensive 41-30 victory over arch-rivals Toulon.
In a thrilling display of attacking rugby, Racing notched up six tries, including an impressive hat-trick by Argentinian wing Juan Imhoff, to three from Toulon, who were 16-20 down at half-time.
"We didn't come here to concede 40 points, but we've shipped 40, so Racing are the better team today," said Toulon President Mourad Boudjallel.
"They conceded 47 points to Clermont last week and they've reacted very well to that. We'll have to react in the same fashion next week."
Toulon's Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny and Racing's All Black playmaker Dan Carter traded early penalties before the visitors' Francois Trinh-Duc nailed a 25-metre drop-goal.
Imhoff showed all his classy finishing skills when he skipped past Aidon Davis down the right flank and swerved past Halfpenny for a great try that Carter converted.
The Argentinian flyer crossed for his second soon after, a scrambling Toulon defence missing the injured Ma'a Nonu unable to snuff out the attack from an attacking line-out that featured two fantastic offloads from two-time capped All Black centre Laulala and Carter.
Racing sought to keep the ball alive at all costs and a third try followed when Laulala was played in past the stretched defence.
Halfpenny reduced the deficit with his second penalty and was also on hand to convert Pelissie's opening try for Toulon after a smart Trinh-Duc barge and offload.
Wenceslas Lauret bagged Racing's bonus point when he sliced through Guilhem Guirado and Trinh-Duc to go over for the Parisians' fourth try early in the second period.
Laulala, who made his All Black debut in 2004 alongside Carter, notched up his brace after a perfect offload from the playmaker, the centre dancing acrobatically around a stranded Halfpenny.
Laulala was then on hand with an inch-perfect pass to play Imhoff in for his hat-trick.
Toulon grabbed a late penalty try with home prop Cedate Gomes Sa yellow-carded, centre Anthony Belleau having the final word for the visitors when he touched down a Trinh-Duc grubber.
In Sunday's early game, Castres claimed just their second victory of the season with a bonus-point 46-9 thrashing of rock-bottom Grenoble.
Led by rampaging No 8 Alex Tulou, Castres ran in seven tries: South African-born France scrumhalf Rory Kockott opened the scoring before flank Mathieu Babillot and hooker Jody Jeneker also crossed in the first half.
Afusipa Taumoepeau, Victor Moreaux, Marc-Antoine Rallier and Thomas Combezou, aided by four Benjamin Urdapileta conversions and a Kockott penalty, compounded Grenoble's woes, their sole points coming from the boot of flyhalf Gilles Bosch.
"It's great to get back to winning ways," said Tulou, whose Castres side host Racing next week.
"It means the work we're putting in is paying off.
"We started the season badly but we have to work and continue fighting like that in all our matches because it's a league that is really very tight."
In Saturday's action, Clermont ran in five tries to beat Bordeaux 40-16 to go top as surprise early pacesetters La Rochelle surrendered a 12-point half-time lead to slump to a 28-29 defeat at Brive.
Toulouse old boy Frederic Michalak punished his former club by scoring six penalties and a conversion as promoted Lyon won 25-20, and Pau stunned 2015 champions Stade Francais 23-6 with their All Blacks imports Conrad Smith and Colin Slade playing crucial roles.
Castres 46 Grenoble 9
Racing92 41 Toulon 30
Lyon 25 Toulouse 20
Brive 29 La Rochelle 28
Pau 23 Stade Francais 6
Bayonne 9 Montpellier 21
Clermont 40 Bordeaux-Begles 16