Champions Racing fall at Castres
TOP 14 SATURDAY WRAP: Defending champions Racing 92 once again failed to get past Top 14 rivals Castres, falling 23-31 in the early French rugby championship clash on Saturday.
A week after their 41-30 demolition of arch-rivals Toulon, Racing could not find a way past Castres, the only team they failed to beat last season.
"The European Cup is the number one priority for the club this season," said Racing coach Laurent Labit, a former player and coach at Castres.
"The standards of the Top 14 are rising all the time and teams are growing."
The champions were boosted by new recruit Leone Nakarawa for their trip southwest with the Fijian lock the high point for his team as he started for the first time.
Olympic Sevens gold medallist Nakarawa set Racing on their way with a classy move, beating three defenders to allow prop Eddy Ben Arous to touch down after 16 minutes, and the 28-year-old Fijian pulled his team back into the match with a 70th-minute try.
Rodrigo Capo Ortega and Geoffrey Palis touched down for Castres either side of the break with Argentine Benjamin Urdapilleta's try two minutes from time sealing victory and depriving Racing of a bonus defensive point.
Castres won the corresponding fixture 34-8 last season and back-rower Alexandre Bias said his team enjoy the challenge of taking on the heavyweights of the championship.
"Playing Racing at home is a positive pressure and it was easier for us after the interval with the wind," he said.
"But it's just one step. If we lose by 40 points at Clermont [their next game] this fine win will be forgotten."
La Rochelle, who suffered a first defeat of the season last week at Brive despite leading at the break, returned to winning ways with a 34-17 victory over Bayonne which also put them back on top of the pile.
With the winning bonus point, La Rochelle displaced Clermont from top spot although their rivals can reclaim pole position with victory at Toulon on Sunday.
Hooker Hikairo Forbes scored La Rochelle's opening try on 32 minutes before a penalty try helped them to a 20-6 half-time lead.
Tries in five second-half minutes from winger Vincent Rattez and centre Pierre Aguillon stretched the advantage before Martin Laveau grabbed Bayonne's only try with the game's last move after La Rochelle No8 Jone Qovu had been yellow-carded.
Veteran flyhalf Brock James kicked 14 points for the leaders while Bayonne slipped to a fourth successive defeat.
Australian wing Adam Ashley-Cooper grabbed a hat-trick of tries to steer Bordeaux-Begles to a 32-10 win over Lyon.
Ashley-Cooper, who caused a rumpus when he missed the first three games of the Top 14 season to play for Australia, scored in the eighth, 17th and 58th minutes as Bordeaux went into fifth place.
Grenoble are at the foot of the table after losing 38-39 to Pau in a thrilling match which featured five tries but was eventually decided by the boot of New Zealand centre Tom Taylor.
He converted all of his team's three tries and succeeded with six penalties, the last of which came in the final minute to overturn a 38-36 deficit.
Two minutes earlier, Grenoble flyhalf Jonathan Wisniewski thought he had won it when he popped over his eighth penalty of the contest but Taylor kept his nerve to give Pau a second successive Top 14 win after last weekend's impressive 23-6 victory over Stade Francais.