Toulon power past La Rochelle

Date published: September 12 2015

Toulon put a difficult week behind them with a bonus-point 45-24 win over La Rochelle in a thrilling game at Mayol.

The week had been dominated by reports that a pharmacy in Toulon was being investigated by the French anti-doping agency.

Mourad Boudjellal called it a conspiracy against Toulon, and coach Bernard Laporte, who is running to become the next president of the French federation.

On the pitch, Toulon had given themselves some breathing space last week with a first win of the season, away at Stade Français.

La Rochelle had done the same at home to Brive, and early on, it was they who dominated the game, however after trailing 3-17, Toulon ran in six tries and secured the win, with Josua Tuisova scoring two tries.

Jonathan Pélissié and Zack Holmes exchanged early penalties, before Steffon Armitage had a try ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.

The visitors then took control after quarter of an hour, with a Pélissié kick charged down and Pierre Aguillon getting away. He was hauled down by the neck by Tuisova, and after consultation with the TMO, the Fijian winger was sin-binned and a penalty try awarded. Julien Audy converted and La Rochelle added a second try soon after.

This time it was Delon Armitage who was charged down, and La Rochelle moved the ball quickly, with Kevin Gourdon holding off two men, then finding Aguillon who sent Lekso Kaulashvili over. With Holmes' conversion, La Rochelle led improbably 3-17.

It wouldn't last, and when Tuisova returned from his ten minutes in the bin, Toulon took complete control. First from a loose kick by Jean-Pascal Barraque, Tuisova collected and found himself with just one man to beat. He comfortably shook off the tackle of Benjamin Lapeyre to score. Pélissié converted to bring his side back to within a score.

They grabbed their second just before half-time, with La Rochelle getting into trouble in their own 22 and when a ball was kicked out of a ruck, Maxime Mermoz reacted quickest and delivered a try on a plate for his captain Juan Smith.

There was still time for another try before the break, a powerful rolling maul ending with Steffon Armitage crashing over, and Pélissié's conversion made it 24-17 at the break.

La Rochelle, who had lost Barraque to a yellow card just before half-time for a tackle without the ball, improved early in the second-half, but just as they looked to be on the front foot, indiscipline cost them.

With Toulon penalised for killing the ball at the breakdown, La Rochelle looked to be in great shape to draw level. Instead Jason Eaton was spotted stepping on Gerhard Vosloo on the floor, and was sin-binned as a result.

Without their lock, the La Rochelle scrum was overmatched, and Toulon quickly scored their fourth try, a penalty score after a five-metre scrum.

The bonus point was on the cards, but La Rochelle managed to score their third try despite being down to 14. Behind a scrum going backwards, they just saved the ball, with Ricky Januarie sprinting away down the blindside before finding François Herry inside him for the score. Barraque converted to make it a one-score game once more.

It didn't last long though, and with consummate ease Toulon scored a fifth, youngster Théo Belan on hand when Mermoz went clean through in midfield.

And there was plenty of time remaining to score the bonus-point try, with replacement Sireli Bobo setting up Tuisova for his second try in the right-hand corner. Pélissié converted again to stretch the lead even further and seal the win.

The scorers:

For Toulon:
Tries: Tuisova 2, Smith, Armitage, Penalty, Belan
Cons: Pélissié 6
Pen: Pélissié
Yellow Card: Tuisova

For La Rochelle:
Penalty, Kaulashvili, Herry
Cons: Audy, Holmes, Barraque
Pen: Holmes
Yellow Cards: Barraque, Eaton

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Theo Belan, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Thibault Lassalle, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Anthony Etrillard. 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Jocelino Suta, 19 Charles Ollivon, 20 Sireli Bobo, 21 UJ Seuteni, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Mohamed Boughanmi.

La Rochelle: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 François Herry, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Zeno Kieft, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Jone Qovu, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Vincent Pelo.
Replacements: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Damien Lagrange, 19 Mathieu Tangu, 20 Enrico Januarie, 21 Fabien Fortassin, 22 Charles Bouldoire, 23 Maxime Gau

Referee: Cyril Lafon