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, southern France, on August 23, 2014
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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, southern France, on August 23, 2014 (AFP Photo/Franck Pennant)

Paris (AFP) - French and European champions Toulon went on a nine-try rampage on Saturday in a 60-19 mauling of promoted La Rochelle while Clermont ended a six-match away losing streak with a 21-6 victory at Brive.

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 No8 Kevin Gourdon and prop 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 without a fight 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 as the champions went top after their second successive win.

"We must continue in this state of mind, continue to excel and forget the past," said Toulon boss Bernard Laporte.

"Apart from the first five minutes, we kept hold of the ball and looked to up the speed and tempo."

Clermont, fired by new fly-half Camille Lopez, made it two wins 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 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."

Stade Francais also claimed a second win by beating Lyon 23-20 but were hanging on by the end having led 20-8 at the interval through tries by Digby Ioane and Jeremy Sinzelle and 10 points off the boot of Jules Plisson.

Enrico Januarie had got Lyon on the board with a 26th-minute try while Lionel Nallet and Mosese Ratuvou were second-half try-scorers before Stade just squeezed home.

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 Sofiane Guitoune.

Australian centre Teddy Thomas scored twice for Racing.

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.