La Rochelle moved into the driving seat in the Top 14 standings when they claimed a 27-21 win over Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday.
The visitors were made to work hard for this result especially during the game’s latter stages when Toulouse launched a late fightback.
Both sides crossed for two tries apiece but it was the goalkicking of La Rochelle’s Australian fly-halves Zack Holmes and Brock James which proved the difference between the sides and the duo contributed 17 points between them with Holmes kicking four penalties and James adding a conversion and a penalty.
The result means La Rochelle now occupy the top spot on the table on their own after Clermont lost to Castres on Saturday.
La Rochelle had the better of the early exchanges and led 6-0 by the 15th minute after Holmes kicked two penalties.
Toulouse struck back with a penalty of their own from Sebastien Bezy but Holmes cancelled that effort out when he landed his third three-pointer from the tee in the 21st minute.
He added his fourth penalty three minutes later before Bezy succeeded with his third one on the half-hour mark, which meant the visitors led 12-6 at half-time.
Toulouse came out stronger in the second half and narrowed the gap to a point when Joe Tekori barged over for the opening try in the 51st minute.
James, who came on to replaced Holmes late in the second half, then kicked a penalty in the 55th minute before Jone Qovu Nailiko crossed for the visitors’ first try two minutes later after James and Jason Eaton did well in the build-up.
James added the extras before Bezy kicked a conversion in the 65th minute which narrowed the gap to eight points. La Rochelle continued to attack, however, and were rewarded when Pierre Aguillon crossed for their second try in the 69th minute.
Toulouse fought back via a 73rd minute try from Julien Marchand which Jean-Marc Doussain converted and although the home side gave their all in a bid to secure the result, La Rochelle’s defence held firm in the dying minutes.
Tries: Tekori, Marchand
Pens: Bezy 3
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Nailiko, Aguillon
Pens: Holmes 4, James
Yellow Card: Forbes
Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Arthur Bonneval, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yann David, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 François Cros, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Gregory Lamboley, 19 Piula Faasalele, 20 Talalelei Gray, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Dorian Aldegheri
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Steeve Barry, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Afaesetiti Amosa, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 19 Mathieu Tanguy, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Brock James, 22 Levani Botia, 23 Mohamed Boughanmi
Referee: Maxime Chalon
Assistant Referees: Nicolas Datas, Sébastien Hebert
TMO: Eric Gauzins
Photo credit: Steeve Barry