Top 14 - Round 3
Grenoble hand Toulon first loss of the season
August 31, 2013
Grenoble's Blair Stewart celebrates his side's victory over Toulon © Getty Images
Toulon suffered their first defeat of the Top 14 season against Grenoble at the Stade des Alpes on Saturday with the hosts claiming a dramatic 28-26 victory.
Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson had a chance to ensure Toulon escaped with a share of the spoils but his last gasp conversion attempt following a late try from Matt Giteau failed to hit the target. Valentin Courrent and Julien Caminati had booted Grenoble into a 15-12 lead at half-time but their hopes were dented with a yellow card for Matthieu Nicolas shortly after the re-start. But they weathered the blow and try from Roland Bernard just past the hour mark put them on course for a famous win. Back came Toulon, boosted by another yellow card for Grenoble's Anthony Hegarty and the introduction of debutant Bryan Habana, with their efforts eventually rewarded with a try for Giteau but it was not enough to preserve their unbeaten start to the season.
Clermont Auvergne bounced back from their shock defeat to Oyonnax last weekend with an impressive 38-19 victory over Toulouse at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Saturday. Tries from Julien Bardy, Thomas Domingo, Julien Bonnaire and Wesley Fofana carried the hosts to a much-needed victory that extended their winning run at home to 61 games and propelled them up the table. Toulouse had threatened to end their opponents' proud record at the Marcel Michelin that extends back to 2009 with a first half try from Maxime Médard and they only trailed 13-10 at half-time but were unable to shackle their rivals after the break with influential Clermont fly-half Brock James bagging 18 points with the boot.
Stade Francais marked their return to the refurbished Jean Bouin Stadium with a crushing 38-3 victory over Biarritz on Friday. After three years of playing their home fixtures across the city at the Charlety stadium, tries from Pierre Rabadan, Julien Arias, Jonathan Danty and Waisea Vuidravuwalu propelled Stade to a commanding win in their home opener.
A drop-goal from Jules Plisson before the interval moved Stade 16-3 ahead before they turned on the style in the second half as Biarritz were reduced to 13 men in a matter of minutes with Daniel Waenga and Arnaud Heguy both sin-binned. The introduction of debutant fly-half Morne Steyn on 61 minutes further galvanised the home side, the South African converting Fijian winger Vuidravuwalu's try to cap off a resounding success that sent the capital club three points clear of Toulon ahead of Saturday's action.
Bayonne were another side to get back in the winning habit after a crushing loss to Toulouse last weekend with a 31-20 victory over Perpignan at the Stade Jean-Dauger. An early try from Gabiriele Lovobalavu put them on course for victory with Joe Rokocoko and Scott Spedding adding further scores after the break with Perpignan notching a consolation try courtesy of Daniel Leo.
Racing Metro also returned to winning ways after their defeat to Toulon last time out with Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton bagging 17 points in his side's 22-9 victory over Oyonnax. The Top 14 new boys threatened an upset with Conrad Bernard kicking them into a 9-6 lead at half-time but back came Racing with a late Virgile Lacombe try setting the seal on their victory.
Montpellier bounced back from their defeat at the hands of Biarritz in the previous round with a 33-24 victory over Brive at the Stade Yves du Manoir. Both sides notched three tries with Montpellier's Timoci Nagusa and Benoit Sicart crossing alongside a penalty try and Laurent Ferreres, Karlen Asieshvili and Gaëtan Germain all scoring for Brive. - with the kicking exploits of Francois Trinh-Duc and Benoit Paillaugue proving decisive.
In the weekend's other game, Bordeaux-Begles claimed a narrow 21-20 victory over defending champions Castres at the Stade Chaban-Delmas. Four penalties from Pierre Bernard gave Bordeaux-Begles a 12-9 lead at the break and he added two more after the break but a try from Romain Martial and the kicking exploits of Geoffrey Palis and Rory Kockott kept Castres in the contest. Bernard edged Bordeaux-Begles nearer victory with a drop goal with just a couple of minutes remaining but they had to withstand a late rally from Castres with Kockott denied a dramatic late score.
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