Toulon silenced their critics in consummate fashion on Saturday with a 51-6 win over Top 14 rivals Montpellier at Stade Felix Mayol.
Toulon silenced their critics in consummate fashion on Saturday with a five-try 51-6 win over Top 14 rivals Montpellier at Stade Felix Mayol.
The bonus-point result cements RCT's place at the summit of the championship standings for at least another fortnight but raises further questions around last week's shock 41-0 loss to Bordeaux-BÃ¨gles, which was suffered with a very similar line-up.
Toulon raced to a 19-6 lead at half time thanks to tries from skipper Joe van Niekerk and second row Nick Kennedy.
Further tries from replacement back Benjamin Lapeyre, centre Matt Giteau and 18-year-old Ivan Roux ensured a maximum haul for the hosts while Jonny Wilkinson contributed 26 points with the boot.
For Montpellier it was a dramatic end to a four-match winning run, and they could lose their fourth spot later should Castres beat Biarritz.
Toulon had taken advantage early in the match of two Montpellier yellow cards, Yoann Audrin shortly followed by outstanding backrow forward Mamuka Gorgodze.
Already 6-0 up the home side ran in two tries, firstly through former Springbok van Niekerk, who rounded off a 60 metres move, then Kennedy, who finished off a break started by Giteau.
Way ahead at the break, Toulon did not ease up with the sixth of Wilkinson's penalties and then the bonus point try by Lapeyre in the 54th minute giving them an unassailable 39-6 advantage.
Giteau and then Roux added further tries to round off their impressive day's work.
Toulon head coach Bernard Laporte said his players had responded in the perfect manner.
“This victory belongs to the players,” said the former France coach.
“I am proud of how they have reacted, they have put in a great performance. They have regained their respect.”
His Montpellier counterpart Fabien Galthie, who captained France under Laporte, said that they had held out some hope going into the second-half.
“We said that we could still come back in the second-half, if we got off to a good start. But sadly we conceded points early on like we did in the first-half,” said Galthie.
Tries: van Niekerk, Kennedy, Lapeyre, Giteau, Roux
Cons: Wilkinson 4
Pens: Wilkinson 6
Pens: Bustos Moyano 2
Yellow cards: Audrin; Gorgodze
Toulon: 15 Vincent Martin, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Geoffroy Messina, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Nicolas Durand, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Joe van Niekerk, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Steffon Armitage, 20 Ivan Roux, 21 Benjamin Lapeyre, 22 Sebastien Tillous Borde, 23 Levan Chilachava.
Montpellier: 15 Martin Bustos Moyano, 14 Yohann Artru, 13 Matthew Carraro, 12 Paul Bosch, 11 Yoan Audrin, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 John Beattie, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Remy Martin, 5 Alikisio Fakate, 4 Hendrikus Hancke, 3 Barry Faamausili, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Yvan Watremez.
Replacements: 16 Erasmus Jansen van Vuuren, 17 Juan Figallo, 18 Mickael De Marco, 19 Alex Tulou, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Timoci Nagusa, 22 Benjamin Thiery, 23 Maximiliano Bustos.