La Rochelle provisionally moved to the top of the Top 14 table after claiming a narrow 23-20 win over Toulon at Stade Félix Mayol on Saturday.
An injury time penalty from Brock James secured victory for the visitors in a tightly contested match in which both two teams crossed for two tries with Vincent Rattez scoring both La Rochelle’s five-pointers.
The early exchanges were tense and after Zack Holmes opened the scoring via a 14th minute penalty, the visitors were dealt a blow when Levani Botia was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Josua Tuisova.
But despite that setback, La Rochelle scored the opening try midway through the half when Rattez pounced on an error from Jonathan Pélissié – who failed to deal with a teasing grubber kick from Kini Murimurivalu – before crossing the whitewash.
Toulon launched a gallant attempt to open their account and were eventually rewarded just before half-time when Jean Charles Orioli went over for their opening try from close quarters.
Pierre Bernard added the extras, which meant La Rochelle held a slender 10-7 lead at half-time, and added a penalty shortly after the restart. James and Bernard then traded penalties which meant the sides were level at 13-13 on the hour-mark before Rattez scored his second try after gathering a long pass from James inside Toulon’s 22.
To their credit, Toulon did not surrender and they were rewarded in the 75th minute when referee Alexandre Ruiz awarded them a penalty try after La Rochelle’s forwards capitulated under heavy pressure at a scrum.
Bernard slotted the easy conversion but the visitors had the final say when James held his nerve to slot his penalty after Toulon infringed at a scrum in the game’s closing stages.
Tries: Orioli, Penalty try
Cons: Bernard 2
Pens: Bernard 2
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Rattez 2
Cons: Holmes, James
Pens: James 2 Holmes
Yellow Card: Botia
Toulon: 15 Pierre Bernard, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Marcel Van der Merwe, 2 Jean Charles Orioli, 1 Laurent DelBoulbes
Replacements: 16 Anthony Ertillard, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Juandré Kruger, 19 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Alesana Tuilagi, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Levan Chilachava
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Pierre Aguillon, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Arthur Retière, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jason Eaton, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 4 Mathieu Tanguy, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Jérémie Maurouard, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Afaesetiti Amosa, 20 Alexis Bales, 21 Steeve Barry, 22 Brock James, 23 David Feao
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz