Top 14 Review: Champions Clermont defeated in opener

By Paul Eddison
clermont top 14 final

clermont top 14 final

Clermont’s winless streak at Aimé Giral continued as the new champions fell to Perpignan on an exciting first weekend of the Top 14.

Having finally ended their wait for the hallowed Bouclier de Brennus, the team from the Massif Central would have hoped to kick off their defence with a victory, but wins in Catalonia are hard to come by, and Perpignan gained a measure of revenge for last May’s final defeat with a 21-13 victory.

The Catalan side were unable to cross the whitewash, but five penalties from Jérôme Porical, as well as two drop goals, one from more than 40m, from David Mélé, proved too much for the champions. The visitors did manage one score through Napo Nalaga, but a late Porical penalty denied them even a losing bonus point. The one sour moment of the evening came when Guillaume Vilaceca was sent off for stamping on the head of Thibault Privat ten minutes from time.

Elsewhere, it was a weekend which provided a couple of surprises as Toulon slipped up at home, and La Rochelle got off to a winning start. Without first choice half backs Pierre Mignoni and Jonny Wilkinson, Toulon looked a little short of ideas, and youngster Yoann Huget scored a brace for Bayonne as they became the first visiting side to win at Mayol in the league in over a year, running out 26-22 winners.

Newly promoted La Rochelle also upset the odds with an impressive 22-17 defeat of Castres. The favourites for relegation got off to a great start with a try after just four minutes from full back Sébastien Boboul. They added another two tries, and despite a late fightback from the visitors, held on for a deserved victory.

In the other matches, Toulouse looked in ominous form, running in six tries in their 44-24 victory over Agen, the pick of the bunch coming from Yann David. Stade Français also got off to an impressive start under new coach Michael Cheika, with six tries of their own and a 43-12 win, despite a very closely contested first half.

New Montpellier coach, Fabien Galthié, saw his charges come away with nothing from their match at Biarritz, but will have taken heart from their spirited comeback, losing 30-22, having at one point trailed 21-3. Finally Racing-Métro recorded an impressive 23-18 win at Brive, with new scrum half Nicolas Durand particularly catching in the eye.

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