Teddy Thomas scored his first try for La Rochelle against his former club Racing 92, as Ronan O’Gara’s side came from behind to win a scrappy, messy, thoroughly enthralling match 24-19 at Stade Marcel Deflandre.
The winger dived over in the corner 12 minutes from time to pull the hosts back into a game they had, for much of the previous hour-and-a-bit, conspired to lose.
Fullback Dillyn Leyds - on kicking duties in the absence of the injured Antoine Hastoy - still had to slot a difficult conversion from out wide for La Rochelle to take the lead for the first time. He did.
Minutes later, Pierre Boudehent burst through Racing’s defence into wide open space to put the match beyond doubt.
The late try was redemption for Thomas, after his fumble in his own in-goal area late in the opening period was leapt on joyfully by Francis Saili for his first try for the visitors.
Saili, who had joined Racing from Biarritz in September following the health-enforced retirement of Virimi Vakatawa, was a near-constant thorn in La Rochelle’s side. He was denied an earlier try for - apparently - sliding too far on a rain-slicked surface.
Ex-Connacht lock Ultan Dillane started his first match for La Rochelle, playing over an hour in front of a 70th consecutive 16,000-strong full house at Marcel Deflandre - either side of Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021 - while UJ Seuteni stepped in at fly-half, following Hastoy’s injury in the loss at Clermont last Sunday.
Seuteni scored the game’s first try, after Finn Russell had kicked Stuart Lancaster’s future charges into an early lead with three penalties.
Non-stop rain and twin defensive gameplans meant any hope of an exciting weekend opener between Bordeaux and Stade Francais at Stade Chaban Delmas was quickly dashed.
Alivereti Raka sent a reminder for the France selectors as he scored a hat-trick in Clermont’s 43-20, six-try win over Lyon at Marcel Michelin. He now has 52 tries in 83 Top 14 matches, and five in five this season.
Five penalties were enough for the hosts to record their second win of the season 15-10 - an 84th-minute try giving the Parisians a losing bonus point.
Perpignan doubled-up on their victory over Toulon last weekend, as they beat Castres 14-10 at Stade Aime Giral to claim back-to-back Top 14 wins for the first time since 2013.
Brive survived a second-half fightback at Stade Amedee Domenech to beat Bayonne 25-22, having been 18-3 ahead at halftime - and record their first home win of the season at the third attempt.
Having roared into a 31-10 halftime lead, Toulon were denied a bonus-point win on the road at Pau by Youri Delhommel’s 70th-minute try, the match finishing 34-17 in the visitors’ favour.
On Sunday, a rotated Toulouse head to Montpellier’s GGL stadium in a battle of the Top 14’s early pace-setters. Arthur Retiere stands in at nine for the visitors, while his younger brother Edgar makes his first senior appearance at 10.