Gorgodze rescues Toulon
TOP 14 WRAP: Giant Georgian forward Mamuka Gorgodze scored the crucial try to hand three-time European champions Toulon a much-needed 23-21 win over previously undefeated Clermont in the Top 14 on Sunday.
Starting the day down in an embarrassing 11th place, big-spending Toulon were staring at a fourth defeat in six games when they trailed 16-21 with just seven minutes left in front of their disgruntled fans at Stade Mayol.
But Gorgodze, playing in the second row, drove through off a ruck to score next to the posts to bring the scores level before Pierre Bernard slotted over the straightforward conversion.
Toulon still had to survive a nervy conclusion when Clermont's Camille Lopez just missed a drop-goal attempt with two minutes left.
The win moved Toulon, routed 41-30 by Racing 92 last weekend, up to fifth place and eased the pressure on under-fire coach Diego Dominguez who had seen former Bath boss Mike Ford hired as backs coach earlier in the day.
"Some times, matches don't turn out the way you want, but this time the win was very important for everybody," said Dominguez.
"We didn't deserve to lose but in terms of the way we managed the game, we could have lost."
For Clermont, it was a first defeat of the season and left them in third spot, two points behind leaders La Rochelle.
"We go home with a defensive bonus point," said Clermont coach Franck Azema.
"We were very poor in the first half, we were second-best in attack and defence. In the final analysis, we only performed for 35 minutes; we could have done better."
Toulon had led 16-6 at the interval after a fourth try of the season for No8 Charles Ollivon who scored after a defence-splitting pass from flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc.
Welsh star Leigh Halfpenny popped over the conversion for a fourth successful kick from five attempts in the opening period.
Argentine fly-half Patricio Fernandez kicked Clermont's only points of the first half.
But the 21-year-old Puma then took the game by the scruff of the neck in three second-half minutes with two memorable tries for Clermont.
After 52 minutes, a perfectly-weighted crossfield kick from Lopez fell into his hands before he went over, shrugging off a half-hearted tackle from James O'Connor.
Lopez hit the conversion to bring the sides level at 16-16 before Fernandez stretched Clermont's advantage by collecting his own kick ahead to touch down in the corner.
That made it 21-16 but Toulon fought back, grabbing the momentum and sparking the forwards' pressure which opened the door for Gorgodze to barrel over.
Burly Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo scored a hat-trick of tries as Montpellier thumped Brive 42-13 to earn a bonus point that took them up to second.
Former Crusaders back Nadolo made the most of clever kicking by his team-mates to dot down three times in a comprehensive Montpellier performance.
"It's been a long time coming," Nadolo, who is in his second spell in France following an unsuccessful six months at Bourgoin in 2010, told Canal+.
"To get some tries on the back of a really good back line, I'm pleased."
On Saturday, defending champions Racing 92 fell to a third straight away defeat, 31-23 at Castres.
Surprise-package La Rochelle went top with a 34-17 win over Bayonne while Toulouse arrested an alarming three-game losing streak with a 23-18 success against 2015 champions Stade Francais.
Australia wing Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a hat-trick as Bordeaux-Begles took a bonus point in routing Lyon 32-10.
Top 14 table (played, won, drawn, lost, points for, points against, bonus points, total points):
La Rochelle 6 4 1 1 183 131 3 21
Montpellier 6 4 0 2 170 96 3 19
Clermont 6 3 2 1 194 131 3 19
Castres 6 3 1 2 160 110 2 16
Toulon 6 3 0 3 151 148 3 15
Bordeaux 6 3 0 3 135 133 2 14
Racing 92 6 3 0 3 140 153 2 14
Pau 6 3 0 3 129 144 2 14
Brive 6 3 1 2 133 162 0 14
Toulouse 6 3 0 3 114 132 1 13
Stade Francais 6 2 1 3 157 149 2 12
Lyon 6 2 1 3 116 152 1 11
Bayonne 6 1 1 4 95 155 0 6
Grenoble 6 1 0 5 135 216 2 6