Top 14 roundup: Plisson kicks La Rochelle's perfect start to touch

After three wins in a row, Ronan O’Gara’s side were a long way second best
Top 14 roundup: Plisson kicks La Rochelle's perfect start to touch

Clermont's Australian centre Irae Simone (R) scores a try during the French Rugby Union match betweem Clermont and La Rochelle at the Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand on september 25, 2022. (Photo by THIERRY ZOCCOLAN / AFP) (Photo by THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Top 14 Roundup

Former La Rochelle player Jules Plisson kicked his old side’s winning start to the season to touch with three penalties in the last eight minutes to guide Clermont to a much-needed 22-13 win.

Hit-and-miss Plisson, who moved to Clermont in the summer, nailed pressured shots at goal eight minutes, four minutes and two minutes from time to pull the home side clear, and extend the Rochelais’ losing streak at Marcel Michelin to 21 matches.

After three wins in a row - against Top 14 champions Montpellier, Challenge Cup winners Lyon and league survivors Perpignan - Ronan O’Gara’s side were a long way second best in a fussily refereed and perpetually stop-start match at Stade Marcel Michelin that kicked off at 8.05pm and ended, with Plisson joyfully putting boot to ball one last time, at 10.59pm.

The hosts had been led from the front by the perma-excellent Arthur Iturria who was having one of those French selector-eye-catching nights, scoring a try, stealing line-outs and being a dangerous link between forwards and backs. Australian Irae Simone scored their second try late in the first half, as Clermont worked their way to a 13-3 lead.

La Rochelle, with a patched-up, hand-me-down halfback unit after Tawera Kerr-Barlow was injured before the match and Antoine Hastoy limped off seven minutes in with an ankle injury, had struggled for an hour to break down Clermont’s organised and ferocious defence before Yoan Tanga crashed over to briefly bring the scores level and raise hopes of an unlikely first-ever win at this ground.

Plisson’s late triple intervention, to the delight of the partisan crowd, shattered those hopes.

Thomas Berjon, who started the Champions Cup final in May, pulled on the nine shirt, while Dillyn Leyds stepped off the bench and for a long run at 10 for the first time since his Stormers’ days.

O’Gara could only watch from the stands, powerless to act, as he began a six week sideline suspension for disrespecting a match official.

On Saturday, Perpignan marked their 120th anniversary with their first win of the season, a rain-soaked 19-13 success over Toulon at Stade Aime-Giral.

Bordeaux’s poor start to the season continued, as they slipped to a 20-15 loss at a Camille Lopez-inspired Bayonne, their third defeat in four this season.

Castres maintained their unbeaten run at home in the Top 14 with a dismal weather-affected 12-6 win over Brive - the last side to get the better of them in the Top 14, back in December 2020.

Gabriel Ngandebe scored two of Montpellier’s six tries, and prodigy scrum-half Leo Coly opened his Top 14 try account as they dispatched Pau 43-17 at the GGL Stadium.

Ange Capuozzo has quickly settled at Toulouse. The Italian’s 75m intercept try at Ernest Wallon during his side’s four-tries-to-one 37-10 hammering of Racing 92, was his first score since his summer move from Grenoble.

Another young star, Georgia fullback Davit Niniashvili, scored in the first and the 79th minute as Lyon gave themselves a scare at home against Stade Francais - letting the visitors back into a game they were out of before getting away with it 33-27 at the end. 

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