McAlister guides Toulouse past Castres
Toulouse's Schalk Ferreira (C) tries to break through Castres' Richard Gray (L) and Antonie Claassen on September 21, 2013. Toulouse continued their winning home form with a welcome bonus-point 26-9 victory over defending Top 14 champions Castres.
Former All Black playmaker Luke McAlister scored a try and kicked 11 further points, proving instrumental in Toulouse's high-octane off-loading game that shone through after a mistake-ridden opening 40 minutes.
It was Toulouse's fourth victory this season at home, along with three away losses, and took the 19-time former champions to joint head of the Top 14 table alongside Montpellier.
"This is an un expected result," admitted Toulouse backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.
"We hadn't counted on a bonus-point victory. We just wanted to continue to put a little more of everything in our rugby compared to the first six matches.
"More than the result, it's the content that is interesting."
McAlister got the scoreboard ticking with an eighth minute penalty.
Another Kiwi, centre Daniel Kirkpatrick, deputising for benched South African scrum-half Rory Kockott, pulled Castres level with a penalty of his own soon after.
Former Hurricane Kirkpatrick was successful with his second but Toulouse hit back immediately.
A break by fast-footed France centre Gael Fickou broke down but the ball was recycled and worked back across the park, scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain crossing in the corner for a try McAlister was unable to convert.
McAlister was on target for his second penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Kirkpatrick saw an early second-half penalty come back off the woodwork as Toulouse tried to up the ante with their off-loading game.
While guilty of trying to force too many passes, Toulouse's pressure did pay off with another McAlister penalty.
Talismanic Kockott came on for Castres in the 57th minute but it was not enough to prevent McAlister crashing through a weak Kirkpatrick tackle and over for a converted try after a strong attacking scrum.
Kockott, who qualifies for France in June on residency rules, pulled one penalty back for the visitors.
But Toulouse had the last word, a Florian Fritz turnover freeing up Yacouba Camara in midfield, the teenage replacement flanker riding two weak tackles for a fine try.
"We were expecting a tough match, but we're feeling a little down about that first-half," said Castres scrum-half Julien Tomas.
"We created scoring opportunities but we didn't finish them off.
"Toulouse knew how to play it calm and master their own game and in the second-half they made us pay."
In Friday's game, Jonathan Pelissie scored 31 points as Montpellier routed Clermont 43-3 in a bonus-point victory.
In other games on Saturday, Toulon host Bayonne, Racing Metro are at home to Bordeaux-Begles and rock-bottom Biarritz entertain Grenoble.
Promoted Brive and Oyonnax host Perpignan and Stade Francais respectively.