Toulon picked up their first victory in this season’s Champions Cup pool stage as they beat Montpellier 38-28 at Stade Felix-Mayol on Saturday.
A penalty try and Raphael Lakafia, Jean Monribot and Filipo Nakosi’s crossings were complimented by Anthony Belleau’s boot as the hosts ended their drought. Henry Immelman, Frans Steyn and Timoci Nagusa (2) hit back for Montpellier with Ruan Pienaar converting those tries.
Both sides were playing catch-up following Edinburgh‘s win on Friday which left the Scottish side six points clear of Montpellier and 10 ahead of Toulon going into this clash.
What might also worry Saturday’s hosts was the amount of empty seats at Stade Mayol. But their players did not let it affect them as they were impressive in the first-half, going in 13-7 in front thanks to the boot of Belleau and a penalty try due to a last ditch high tackle.
Belleau opened the scoring in the fifth minute after Montpellier second-row Julien Le Devedec was pinged for taking out Toulon scrum-half Eric Escande at a ruck. The fly-half doubled his side’s account 12 minutes later when prop Jannie du Plessis also infringed at the ruck.
Montpellier ought to have cut that lead in half on 20 minutes after Liam Messam was guilty of a ruck offence. However, full-back Steyn was off target in the 22 and that prompted Toulon to launch a sustained spell that almost led to Messam putting wing Nakosi over on the left.
They did not have to wait long for seven points though as Nagusa’s high tackle on back-row Lakafia in the act of scoring resulted in that penalty try and also a yellow card for the wing. That meant Patrice Collazo’s men were now in a healthy position at 13-0 up on 30 minutes.
Montpellier would then be forced to call upon Pienaar after Johan Goosen was stretchered off and he made a difference in the closing stages of the half, setting up Immelman for a simple finish on the left wing before landing the touchline extras that gave them hope at 13-7 down.
But in the opening seven minutes of the second-half, Toulon raced into a 23-7 lead thanks to a Belleau penalty, following offside, before a try from Lakafia after Belleau’s break further extended the gap. Toulon subsequently had half-an-hour to find two tries for a bonus point.
Montpellier though weren’t done and a turnover on 56 minutes led to Steyn rounding the tackler on halfway before coolly crossing for 23-14. However, Belleau sent over his fourth penalty goal shortly after which pushed Toulon back out to a 12-point advantage at 26-14 to the good.
Toulon deservedly added to their lead late on as replacement Monribot powered over before inside centre Julian Savea set up Nakosi for the bonus-point try, which appeared to seal a comprehensive victory. But two late tries from Nagusa at least saw Montpellier leave with a point.
Tries: Penalty try, Lakafia, Monribot, Nakosi
Cons: Belleau 2
Pens: Belleau 4
Tries: Immelman, Steyn, Nagusa 2
Cons: Pienaar 4
Yellow Card: Nagusa
Toulon: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Filipo Nakosi, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Stephane Onambele, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Emerick Setiano, 2 Bastien Soury, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Jean Baptiste Gros, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Swan Rebbadj, 20 Louis Carbonel, 21 Jean Monribot, 22 Yoann Cottin, 23 Corentin Vernet
Montpellier: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Henry Immelman, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Enzo Sanga, 8 Kelian Galletier, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), 5 Julien Le Devedec, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Vincent Giudicelli, 1 Usha Tcheisvhili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Daniel Brennan, 19 Kevin Kornath, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Gabriel N’gandebe, 22 Jan Serfontein, 23 Jacques du Plessis
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson (England), Simon McConnell (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)