Try-scoring roles were reversed in Paris as Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle - the best attack in the Top 14 this season - were outscored four tries to one as they lost 27-14 at Stade Francais, the side with the best defence in the French top flight.
It was a stuttering, uncharacteristically uncertain performance from the visitors that prompted Gregory Alldritt to apologise to the travelling support in an interview immediately after the match.
Early on, it seemed normal service had continued as La Rochelle’s Martin Alonso scored the game’s opening try, with scarcely two minutes on the clock, and Antoine Hastoy kicked three penalties by the half-hour, with just a Mickael Ivaldi maul score from the hosts in response.
But, in a penalty-ridden match that somehow still managed to simmer along intriguingly, tries from Sekou Macalou and Romain Briatte either side of halftime - Macalou also had a score disallowed - gave the hosts a 20-14 lead with 30 minutes to play.
Briatte’s score looked to be the final decisive act of the match, before Lester Etien barged over with less-than two minutes to play to seal the try-scoring bonus for the home side; Joris Segonds ran down the clock to the final second before converting.
Bordeaux climbed away from the foot of the table with a first victory in three matches, and their first since Christophe Urios left the club - a 33-13 bonus-point win over basement side Brive, another side with the manager’s hotseat currently vacant. The visitors’ Stuart Olding was taken off the Chaban-Delmas pitch on a stretcher with a head injury in the opening 10 minutes, as Brive slipped to a seventh defeat in a row.
Damian Penaud, recently voted player of the Autumn Nations Series had a relatively quiet day at the office as Clermont ended a run of four games without a win, beating defending champions Montpellier 19-14.
Perpignan remain five points and one place above Brive in the table, after a 34-13 loss at Toulouse. Antoine Dupont returned to club action for the first time after his ban following his red card against South Africa was cut to two matches on appeal, while ex-Wasp Jack Willis scored on his debut as Toulouse ended a three-match winless run.
Bayonne’s impressive unbeaten run at home on their return to the top flight continued as they beat Lyon 19-7 at a rain-lashed Stade Jean Dauger. The promoted ProD2 champions have now got the better of Racing, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Perpignan, Toulouse and Lyon at home, and beat Clermont on the road.
After last week’s 53-7 loss at Stade Marcel Deflandre, Castres will welcome a return to the comforts of their Stade Pierre Fabre home, where they have not lost in the Top 14 since December 2020, where they meet Pau - a side on a three-match winning streak - on Sunday afternoon.
Later, in the final Top 14 match of the weekend - and the last domestic match before the return of the Champions and Challenge Cup competitions - Toulon will want to consolidate on last week’s win at Stade Francais with a home win over a scarcely recognisable Racing 92 squad.