Nine-try Toulon rout La Rochelle, Clermont end away blues
Toulon's flanker Virgile Bruni (R) scores a try during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Toulon and La Rochelle at the Mayol Stadium in Toulon on August 23, 2014 - by Franck Pennant
Toulon had to overcome conceding a try after just two minutes when Australian winger Alofa Alofa scored in his first appearance since arriving from the Waratahs whom he helped to the Super 15 title earlier this month.
But the reigning champions were quickly into top gear with flanker Virgile Bruni going over for his side's first try.
La Rochelle then imploded with Kevin Gourdon and Thomas Synaeghel sin-binned at the same time and Toulon pounced with further scores from David Smith, Mathieu Bastareaud and Matt Giteau.
That made it 27-7 at the break and there was no let-up with Drew Mitchell, Smith again and Delon Armitage extending the lead after the interval.
To their credit, La Rochelle refused to go down fighting and fly-half Jean-Pascal Barraque and winger Damien Cler grabbing tries to save face.
But Toulon were not finished as Chris Masoe and James O'Connor scored the eighth and ninth tries in the last minute.
Clermont, fired by new fly-half Camille Lopez, made it two from two in the Top 14 with a drab 21-6 victory over Brive.
Lopez, a close season signing from relegated Perpignan, stepped into Brock James' boots at 10 and kicked five penalties and a drop-goal (18 points) in the win that broke Clermont's six-match losing away streak.
The fly-half was making his competitive debut for Clermont alongside Wales and Lions centre Jonathan Davies and former All Blacks winger Zac Guilford, who received a late yellow card.
But Clermont's threat came more from their hard-hitting pack than in the backs, with Brive's scrum destroyed.
The home side were also guilty of countless infringements at the ruck, handing first Morgan Parra and then Lopez the opportunity to keep the scoreboard ticking over for an academic victory.
"The important thing for us was to see the spirit in the team in what what was a complicated away game," said Clermont coach Franck Azema.
"I am proud of the players level. Now we must build on it, we haven't won the Top 14 title. And despite the win, it was far from perfect."
Montpellier edged Grenoble 20-17 thanks to a last-minute penalty from Jonathan Pelissie while Racing Metro lost 30-21 at Bordeaux thanks to key late tries from Julien Rey and Australian centre Teddy Thomas who scored twice on the night.
On Friday, Toulouse clinched a four-try, bonus-point 35-6 win over Castres to make it two wins in two outings of the new season.
Gael Fickou, Jean-Marc Doussain, Maxime Medard and Sebastien Bezy all scored tries on a night when they played the last 15 minutes with 14 men after replacement full-back Thomas Ramos was red-carded for violent play after only being on the field for under two minutes.