Mermoz try seals Perpignan victory
August 29, 2009
Maxime Mermoz scored the only try as Perpignan beat Toulouse
© Getty Images
Reigning Top 14 champions Perpignan landed an early blow in this season's title race by defeating perennial challengers Toulouse 17-15 at the Stade Aime Giral.
The champions bounced back well from a disappointing loss to Montpellier last weekend, while under a blazing sun Toulouse failed to find any of the attacking spark that helped them to a crushing 38-0 victory over Brive.
In a game dominated by kicking, Perpignan scored the sole try through ex-Toulouse centre Maxime Mermoz. Nicolas Laharrague and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde traded penalties for the duration, but Toulouse boss Guy Noves will be disappointed by his side's lack of a cutting edge.
Laharrague gave the home side the lead with a wonky penalty after Florian Fritz was guilty of a high tackle on Joffrey Michel, a score immediately cancelled out by an effort from Elissalde.
Fritz linked well with wing Cedric Heymans for Toulouse's first meaningful attack with ball in hand and broke well after an attempted drop-goal from Laharrague was charged down by onrushing flanker Yannick Nyanga.
Perpignan nearly registered the first try when scrum-half Nicolas Durand sparked his backline in to action, fullback Michel being bundled in to touch by the scrambling cover defence after joining the line well.
A nimble break by Julien Candelon was well marshalled by some dancing feet from Clement Poitrenaud, before Toulouse hooker William Servat conceded a penalty following a run by his opposite number Guilhelm Guirado - Laharrague converted the simple opportunity.
Perpignan centre Jean-Phillipe Grandclaude then fumbled his side's best opportunity of the half, knocking on after some quick hands by his partner Mermoz had sent him clear of the stretched Toulouse defence.
His miss was compounded by Elissalde's second penalty, secured after Durand had given away field position with a crooked scrum feed. Laharrague missed a chance to claim a half-time lead when he pushed a simple chance across the face of the posts, a mistake that was punished after the resumption by Elissalde's third effort.
Having failed to threaten the Perpignan line Toulouse could count themselves lucky to be ahead, even more so after Laharrague hooked another penalty attempt to the left of the posts. Mermoz, who looked dangerous with ball in hand all game, scythed through the Toulouse defence soon after in a rare moment of enterprising play but was lacking in support, the home side settling for another penalty after the visitors flew up offside in defence.
Laharrague this time found the desired result to draw the scores level, as it remained when Elissalde's range failed him with a long-distance effort. Some over-exuberance from Toulouse scrum-half Byron Kelleher gifted Laharrague his fourth penalty, an offside call against the former All Black costing his side the lead.
A sharp catch and offload by Michel then released Candelon into space, the diminutive winger drawing his man and passing to the impressive Mermoz. The centre had the pace to beat the tackle of Vincent Clerc and crashed through the last cover tackle, from Kelleher, to score.
Elissalde took three points when handed an opportunity with 10 minutes remaining, bringing his side back to within a converted score, and took the same option moments later to close the gap to two points.
Replacement Perpignan pivot David Mele saw a late drop-goal attempt slip past the uprights as time wore down, but it didn't matter as his team-mates were able to hold on for a narrow but deserved victory.
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