Front-row union tops the charts in Europe’s top domestic leagues

Adam Kyriacou
Bath tighthead prop Thomas du Toit.

Bath tighthead prop Thomas du Toit.

Times, it seems, are changing in rugby union as props top the Premiership and Top 14 try-scoring charts after five and six rounds respectively of the season.

It’s a similar story, but to a lesser extent surprising, that another front-row leads the United Rugby Championship (URC) with hooker Johnny Matthews out in front.

The big story though comes from the Premiership and Top 14, where tighthead props Thomas du Toit (Bath) and Thomas Laclayat (Racing 92) lead the way with four tries to their name.

Du Toit on fire

Springboks prop Du Toit has crossed against Saracens, Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Gloucester in a prolific start to life at his West Country club.

His tries have helped Bath to four wins out of their opening five games as they sit in second place, just one point behind Premiership pace-setters Harlequins.

On a personal note, Du Toit leads a group of 11 players by one score at the moment, with Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins), Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints), Josh Hodge (Exeter Chiefs), Dino Lamb (Harlequins), Rich Lane (Bristol Bears), Hanro Liebenberg (Leicester Tigers), Will Muir (Bath), Arron Reed (Sale Sharks), Ben Spencer (Bath), Harry Thacker (Bristol Bears) and Tom Willis (Saracens) all sitting on three tries as they look to chase down the former Sharks tighthead prop.

Like Du Toit, fellow tighthead Laclayat has also hit the ground running at his new club, as the 26-year-old only joined Racing 92 in the off-season from Oyonnax.

Laclayat is not quite setting the pace on his own as he is alongside Xavier Mignot (Lyon), Jeremy Ward (Stade Francais) and Jack Maddocks (Pau) at the summit. That’s still a fantastic effort though, from the front-rower, who scored an impressive 20 tries during his time at Oyonnax, so he is not a stranger to the whitewash.

Indeed, he joined Racing on the back of an outstanding 2022/23 season for Oyonnax, crossing the try-line 12 times in 24 which equates to a try every two games.

Matthews flying

Joining props Du Toit and Laclayat in impressing in the early season is the prolific Glasgow Warriors hooker Matthews, who has five tries in just four matches.

Matthews has proven himself to be deadly from any range for his club as last campaign, he crossed for six tries in the URC and seven times in the Challenge Cup.

The 30-year-old currently leads Jacob Stockdale (Ulster), David Kriel (Bulls), Simone Gesi and Scott Gregory (both Zebre Parma), who have four tries thus far.

In this kind of early-season form, it wouldn’t be a major surprise if the promising Scotland international follows Ulster hooker Tom Stewart’s success of last season by finishing top of the URC try-scoring charts. Stewart ended on 16 crossings so if Matthews continues at this rate that impressive tally could well be topped.

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