Toulouse end La Rochelle's two-year unbeaten home run in Top 14
Paris (AFP) –
Toulouse inflicted La Rochelle's first home loss in the Top 14 in two years on Saturday with a 14-11 victory which allowed them to claim pole position in the table.
La Rochelle hadn't been defeated at their Stade Marcel-Deflandre fortress since March 2019 when they were also beaten by the 20-time champions.
They were on course to avenge that setback on Saturday when they led 8-0 at the break thanks to a try from Fijian centre Levani Botia and a Jules Plisson penalty.
Australian fly-half Zack Holmes, with three penalties, kept Toulouse in touch but a successful kick from Kiwi fly-half Ihaia West allowed La Rochelle some breathing space at 11-9.
But with Australian lock Will Skelton in the sin-bin, Toulouse grabbed their only try of the night from veteran French centre Yoann Huget with just six minutes left to claim victory.
"We are disappointed but we have an understanding of what we must do better," said La Rochelle's New Zealand back-rower Victor Vito, a former World Cup winner.
"It's better to learn now from our errors that later in the final phase. We are not very far from Toulouse.
"Our lack of discipline cost us the match. Also, we were the only undefeated team at home and it's over. But that's the case with all the teams now."
Earlier, Japan full-back Kotaro Matsushima scored his fifth try of the season as Clermont piled the misery on the Top 14's bottom side Agen in a 52-16 bonus-point thrashing.
Matsushima scored the second of Clermont's eight tries with Fiji-born French international wing Alivereti Raka touching down twice.
The match was rearranged from round 16 when it was postponed because of Covid-19 cases in the Clermont camp.
Last weekend Clermont hammered fellow strugglers Bayonne 73-3, making it 18 tries and 125 points in two weeks.
They remain in fourth place on 55 points, just six behind Toulouse.
Agen remain rooted to the bottom of the table with just two points and destined for relegation.
They have now lost all 17 matches this season, the worst start for any team ever in the Top 14.
© 2021 AFP