Castres stun Toulon as Clermont go top
Castres fullback Brice Dulin runs with the ball in front of Toulon center Maxime Mermoz on September 14, 2013 during a French Top 14 rugby Union match at the Pierre Antoine stadium in the southwestern French town of Castres. Castres repeated their Top 14 final victory over European champions Toulon with a hard-fought 22-15 success on Saturday.
The French champions had stunned their illustrious foes in June's final at the Stade de France in Paris but they showed that was no fluke with another gritty display.
"We really couldn't afford to lose this match," said Castres's South African-born France back rower Antonie Claassen.
"It was our first big test of the season and we pulled it out the bag."
Hooker Brice Mach scored the only try of the game for the hosts at the Stade Pierre-Antoine as South African scrum-half Rory Kockott, the star of June's final, slotted over 17 points from four penalties, a conversion and a drop goal.
Toulon goal-kicker Jonny Wilkinson was almost as deadly with the boot, scoring all his team's points from four penalties and a drop goal, to ensure they picked up the defensive bonus.
"First of all we've got nothing to reproach our players for in terms of their attitude," said Toulon coach Jacques Delmas.
"We could even commend them for their desire, they gave it their all."
Defeat meant Toulon lost their place at the Top 14 summit as Clermont overcame a slow start to beat Grenoble 27-13 at home.
However, a last minute try from prop Kevin Goze denied Clermont the attacking bonus point.
It was, however, a quick return to form for the Top 14 favourites, who lost 23-16 at Stade Francais last week.
Two second-half tries from France international No.8 Damien Chouly, as well as a first half penalty try, saw them to victory while Grenoble had Australian lock Ben Hand red-carded 16 minutes from time.
Stade Francais had full-back Jerome Porical to thank as he landed six penalties and a conversion in their 25-18 win over promoted Brive that took them up to joint second, level with Toulon.
South African centre Meyer Bosman scored the hosts' only try on 58 minutes while Fijian winger Venione Voretamaya and hooker Guillaume Ribes crossed for the visitors.
In other matches, Toulouse bounced back to form in style as they crushed rock bottom Biarritz 31-7.
Tries from former New Zealand wing Hosea Gear, flanker Gregory Lamboley, Samoan prop Census Johnson and hooker Christopher Tolofua had put Toulouse over the hill and out of sight at the break, leading 26-0.
The second half was a more competitive affair as Biarritz pulled a try back through Wales wing Aled Brew before centre Gael Fickou rounded off the four-time European champions' scoring.
Bordeaux-Begles earnt a bonus point as they ran in five tries to one from visitors Oyonnax in a 35-10 victory.
Australian wing Blair Connor grabbed a brace of tries while Fijian full-back Metuisela Talebula, centre Julien Rey and flanker Louis-Benoit Madaule also crossed for the hosts. South African prop Jody Jenneker was the only player to cross the line for Oyannax.
In Friday night's late game Perpignan earned a bonus point in a 28-16 victory over previously in-form Montpellier.
South African scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage, Australian No.8 Justin Puril and Algerian-born wing Sofiane Guitoune all crossed for the Catalans in the first half before France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina added the fourth try after the break.
Montpellier, who came into the match on the back of a 25-0 victory over Toulouse the previous weekend, scored a consolation try through Fiji wing Timoci Nagusa, but that wasn't enough to deny Perpignan the attacking bonus.