European Rugby Champions Cup
Quade Cooper hits back but Drew Mitchell the hero for Toulon
Sam Bruce
January 17, 2016
© Quade Cooper

A pair of Wallabies ensured Toulon's European Champions Cup defence remains on track on a afternoon night at the Stade Felix Mayol.

Quade Cooper and Drew Mitchell bookended the three-time defending champions' 15-11 victory over Wasps with tries in the 12th and 80th minutes respectively, the winger's late heroics sending the partisan home crowd into raptures as Bernard Laporte's team moved to the top of Pool 5.

Cooper had last week been on the end of stinging criticism from the club's volatile owner, Mourad Boudjellal, the Frenchman comparing the shift from Jonny Wilkinson to the Australian as akin to moving from "foie gras to pate".

But Boudjellal could have little complaints with Cooper's efforts on Sunday, aside from a missed drop goal, with the 58-Test playmaker turning in a solid all-round performance in the absence of Wallabies team-mate Matt Giteau.

It certainly drew praise from Giteau himself, the former European Player of the Year tweeting his approval from hospital where he recently underwent minor groin surgery.

Wasps, meanwhile, remain in contention for the knock-out stage of the tournament yet they will return home hugely disappointed after seemingly having done enough to earn the four points.

All Blacks back Charles Piutau had another fine game alongside man-of-the-match Guy Thompson, but it wasn't a happy night for Wallabies great George Smith, the No.7 spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin following a late tackle on Springboks winger Bryan Habana.

While the result wasn't decided right up until the final whistle in Toulon, there was no such suspense in Paris as Dan Carter continued his dream start at Racing 92 in a 64-14 victory Scarlets.

The reigning World Rugby Player of the Year kicked six from six and had a hand in one of Racing's nine tries as they secured their position in the knock-out phase.

But it was another New Zealander who stole the show in Paris with former Crusaders star Casey Laulala scoring a hat-trick in the 50-point win.

Still in France, Bordeaux Begles and Exeter contested an eight-try thriller - one of which fell the way of Wallabies star Adam Ashley-Cooper.

The veteran utility back had very little to do for his five-pointer but it was a different story elsewhere as the two sides wowed the small crowd on hand with some superb long-range efforts.

Ashley-Cooper's countryman, Blair Connor, also crossed for a five-pointer as Bordeaux finished the stronger to record a 34-27 triumph.

Meanwhile in the Challenge Cup, Montpellier kept their hopes of qualification alive with a crushing 47-7 victory of easybeats, Calvisano.

Former Brumbies full-back Jesse Mogg was one of five players from a starting side featuring five South Africans to cross the line.

It was also good news for French club Grenoble who continued the pain for London Irish with an away win at the Madejski Stadium.

South African scrum-half Charl McLeod was one of three try-scorers for a Grenoble side that overcame the sin-binning of Aussie Ben Hand in a 28-18 win.

But Harlequins appear to be the team to beat in the secondary European competition after they made it a perfect five from five with a 34-26 victory over Cardiff.

The Londoners were however forced to survive a storming comeback from the visitors after Quins had led 28-0 at the break.

The evergreen Nick Evans was again calling the shots at The Stoop, Harlequins' Kiwi fly-half kicking four conversions and a penalty as Welshman Jamie Roberts claimed bragging rights in his first match against his former club.

© Sam Bruce

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