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Top 14 - Round 1
Toulon hit the ground running
ESPNscrum Staff
August 26, 2011

Former London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage marked his Top 14 debut with a try as Toulon hammered Biarritz 30-5 at the Stade Félix-Mayol on Saturday evening.

Toulon opened the scoring with a penalty from Julien Dumora from all of 50 metres out at the tail end of the first quarter before taking a firm grip of the game with two tries in the space of three minutes. Dumora created the first, making the break for the line which eventually led to winger David Smith scuttling over. Moments later, Armitage drove his way over shortly after Benjamin Lapeyre had forced Benjamin Baby, who was wearing the No.10 jersey for Biarritz, into a turnover. Dumora converted both scores and then added a penalty just on the half-hour mark to put 20 unanswered points between the sides.

Biarritz gave themselves a flicker of hope two minutes before half-time when winger Dan Caprice managed to ground the ball after good work from former England fullback Iain Balshaw but, despite losing hooker Jean-Philippe Genevois to a yellow card three minutes after the break, Biarritz quickly reestablished their authority in the second period, with Dumora landing another penalty before Olivier Missoup crossed after a terrific 30-metre surge.

Toulouse kicked off the defence of their Top 14 crown with an 18-13 defeat to Bayonne at the Stade Jean Dauger the previous night.

Bayonne fly-half Benjamin Boyet put the hosts in control with three first half penalties before his Toulouse counterpart Nicolas Bezy finally got his side on the board shortly after the re-start. Bezy then made way for high-profile signing Luke McAlister before a tit-for-tat exchange between Bayonne scrum-half Cedric Garcia and Toulouse No.9 Jean Marc Doussain that left the hosts 15-6 ahead as the game entered the final quarter. Garcia put the result beyond doubt with a drop goal with four minutes remaining but there was still time for Toulouse replacement Yannick Jauzion to cross for the only try of the game that was converted by Doussain to ensure the bonus point.

Last season's beaten finalists Montpellier also tasted defeat with a 30-22 reverse at the hands of Racing Metro. The boot of Racing Metro fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski and his Montpellier counterpart Raphael Lagarde dominated the first half after a try from No.8 Alex Tulou had given the visitors an early advantage. But Racing centre Henry Chavancy struck back before the break to ensure the sides entered half-time locked at 19-19. Wisniewski and Lagarde exchanged further penalties following the re-start before Racing flanker Jone Qovu Naliko struck with the decisive try. Wisniewski, who finished the game with 20 points, set the seal on the win with his sixth penalty.

The biggest winners on the opening day were Stade Francais who ran in five tries in a 41-20 hammering of Bordeaux Begles. Wingers Francis Fainifo and Julien Arias and No.8 David Lyons all crossed for Stade in a high-scoring opening but the Top 14 newcomers stayed in touch thanks to scores from prop Nicolas Decamps and winger Blair Connor. Bordeaux fly-half Gerard Fraser added a penalty to his two first half conversions shortly after the break but their hopes took a blow soon after when replacement Hugh Chalmers was sin-binned.

Stade scrum-half Julien Dupuy punished his indiscretion with his second penalty of the game and heaped woe on the visitors less than five minutes later with a try that he also converted to take his personal tally to 19 points. Stade replacement Djibril Camara rounded out the scoring with a last minute try that was converted by Jules Plisson.

The division's other newcomers, Lyon, also failed to make a winning start with Clermont Auvergne claiming a 22-13 victory at the Stade Marcel Michelin. The game began brightly for Lyon with flanker Nicolas Bontinck crossing after just two minutes but a yellow card for winger James Bailey coincided with the hosts battling back into the contest with the combined kicking exploits of fly-half Brock James and fullback Anthony Floch giving them a two-point lead at the break. Clermont took a firm grip on the game with a try from scrum-half Kevin Senio after the break that was converted by James with Mark van Gisbergen's second penalty Lyon's only reply.

The boot also dominated Perpignan's 25-6 victory over Castres at Stade Aime Giral. Four first half penalties from fullback Jerome Porical put the Catalans in control and he added two more in the second half along with a conversion following a try from centre Rudi Coetzee.

In the night's other game, Agen staged a second half comeback to beat Brive 20-19 at the Stade Amedee-Domenech. Brive powered into a 16-3 half-time lead thanks largely to an early try from hooker Virgile Lacombe and three penalties from winger Julien Caminati. But back came Agen with No.8 Ueleni Fono sparking the comeback with a try just past the hour mark. Fullback Silvere Tian then reduced the arrears to one point with a try in the last minute allowing replacement Valentin Courrent to win the game with the conversion.

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