Old boys stun Toulon
FRENCH TOP 14 SUNDAY WRAP: Three-time European champions Toulon slumped to a shock 13-27 defeat to Lyon on Sunday with Frederic Michalak, Delon Armitage and Mickael Ivaldi scoring against their former employers.
It was Toulon's first loss in the tournament since mid-September and also marked a day to forget for Japan's star fullback Ayumu Goromaru, who made his long-awaited debut as a second half replacement.
"I am disappointed by our performance. We knew that Lyon, with all of their former Toulon players, would play with a lot of emotion.
"Lyon had more desire than us to win. To win trophies, to reach finals, we have to be better away from home," said Toulon coach Mike Ford.
Lyon built the foundation for victory in the first half where they were 22-6 ahead by the interval. After Armitage and Michalak had kicked Lyon into a 12-3 lead, former Toulon hooker Ivaldi extended the advantage with the first try of the afternoon on 31 minutes.
Flyhalf Michalak, who along with fullback Armitage left Toulon in the summer, converted before the former French international added another penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Pierre Bernard's two penalties were all Toulon had to show for their first half efforts.
Fiji wing Napolioni Nalaga added a second try for Lyon after 47 minutes for a 27-6 lead when Toulon were down to 14 men following a yellow card for lock forward Jocelino Suta. Sebastien Tillous-Borde scored a late consolation converted try for Toulon.
Even the 56th minute introduction of Japan World Cup star Goromaru in place of James O'Connor was not enough to revive the fortunes of the French giants who are fourth in the table, nine points behind leaders Clermont.
"For the intensity of the players in the scrum and in the tackles, the victory was deserved. To also claim a bonus point is fabulous," said Lyon coach Pierre Mignon, a former Toulon player and born in the French city.
La Rochelle went second, six points off the lead, with a bonus point 27-6 win at home to Pau with tries coming from front row bruisers prop Mohamed Boughanmi and hooker Jeremie Maurouard (2).
On Saturday, Clermont narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat at relegation-threatened Grenoble with a 21-20 win secured with a late penalty from replacement fly-\half Patricio Fernandez.
The victory gave Clermont a healthy lead at the top but until Fernandez hit the winning penalty 10 minutes from time, they were staring at defeat against a Grenoble side who have the league's worst defensive record.
Prop Alexandre Dardet had scored Grenoble's second try of the game which was converted by Jonathan Wisniewski for a 20-18 lead. But the Argentine kept his nerve with his first kick of the game after replacing Camille Lopez.
Earlier Morgan Parra and Otar Giorgadze had crossed for Clermont for a 15-7 lead at half-time with South African wing Gio Aplon keeping second-from-bottom Grenoble in touch.
Defending champions Racing 92 scored two tries in the last eight minutes to beat fellow title hopefuls Montpellier 21-9 in a drab affair in Paris. Playing without injured All Blacks legend Dan Carter, Racing were locked at 9-9 until the 72nd minute with Johannes Goosen and Ben Botica exchanging three penalties apiece.
But Henri Chavancy, who has been at Racing since he was 11, blasted through three tackles to score with fellow academy graduate Xavier Chauveau adding a second try three minutes from time.
Toulouse also left it late to secure a 16-15 win over Castres at their Stade Ernest-Wallon home. Missing six of their first-choice squad who are away on international duty with France, Toulouse needed a penalty two minutes from time by Samuel Marques to steal the win.
Bordeaux ran in four tries in an impressive 37-19 win over 2015 champions Stade Francais.
French Top 14 results:
La Rochelle 27-6 Pau
Lyon 27-13 Toulon
Bordeaux 37-19 Stade Francais
Toulouse 16-15 Castres
Brive 26-9 Bayonne
Clermont 21-20 Grenoble
Racing92 21-9 Montpellier
French Top 14 table:
(played, won, drawn, lost, points for, points against, bonus points, total points)
Clermont 10 7 2 1 313 211 4 36
La Rochelle 10 5 2 3 264 197 6 30
Montpellier 10 6 0 4 225 175 3 27
Toulon 10 5 1 4 251 210 5 27
Toulouse 10 6 0 4 210 199 3 27
Bordeaux-Bègles 10 6 0 4 256 238 2 26
Racing92 10 6 0 4 222 212 2 26
Brive 10 5 1 4 225 254 1 23
Castres 10 4 1 5 246 210 3 21
Lyon 10 4 2 4 211 234 1 21
Stade Français 10 4 1 5 254 260 2 20
Pau 10 3 0 7 205 252 5 17
Grenoble 10 2 0 8 214 326 4 12
Bayonne 10 1 2 7 145 263 0 8