Ageless Flying Fijian Sireli Bobo finished off a La Rochelle move scoring a try in the first half to help the newly promoted side defeat Tolouse 37-25.
The Bobo try leveled scores after the conversion by Julien Audy.
Waratahs winger Alofa Alofa’s two tries added lustre in their first win of the season after struggling with discipline and the set-piece in the first two games of the campaign.
Corey Flynn scored the game’s first try but it was his moment of stupidity just as Toulouse had gone back in front in the second half which proved to be the turning point in the game.
The former Crusaders hooker left a shoulder in on Arthur Cestaro with just over an hour gone and La Rochelle took advantage scoring 11 points in his absence.
From there Toulouse were never able to respond, and it was the home side who finished the stronger to run out deserved winners.
La Rochelle had the better of the early stages, showing huge intensity and putting Toulouse on the back foot.
Yet in Toulouse’s first incursion into La Rochelle territory, they set up a powerful rolling maul, and the home side had no answer, with Flynn taking advantage to score his first try for his new club. Luke McAlister was on target with the conversion.
But the home side responded immediately with some great carrying after Gillian Galan had lost the restart, and Bobo took advantage of a lapse on the blindside to nip over on the left.
Toulouse hit straight back through Joe Tekori after good work from Sebastien Bezy. The diminutive scrum-half crept through a couple of tackles, and crawled an extra couple of yards when he wasn’t held, before Tekori popped up to charge over and reach out for the line. McAlister’s conversion made it 14-7 midway through the half.
Having struggled in the first two matches in the scrum, La Rochelle earned the first penalty from the set-piece when Toulouse were caught pushing sideways. And Audy made no mistake from straight in front to reduce the deficit.
And they got back to within one point when Thierry Dusautoir detached early from a scrum allowing Audy to add three more points.
Two minutes later it was Dusautoir again who was caught, this time for hands in the ruck although the French skipper looked to be entitled to contest for the ball. It didn’t prove costly though as Audy missed a simple penalty that would have put the home side in front for the first time.
Toulouse were struggling to take control of the game but they hit back with a long-range McAlister penalty after La Rochelle again failed to deal with the rolling maul.
And with four minutes to go before half-time, Toulouse thought they had their third try through Bezy, who was quickest to a little kick through from Timoci Matanavou but the move was called back for a knock-on from Maxime Medard in the buildup.
Instead it was La Rochelle who had the final word of the half when Bezy was penalised for straying offside at a ruck and knocking the ball out of Audy’s hands. The La Rochelle scrum-half picked himself up to add the three points as Toulouse led 17-16 at half-time.
La Rochelle made the better start to the second half and came close to a second try when Kevin Gourdon charged over off a scrum, only to be held up by Imanol Harinordoquy. In the end it proved irrelevant as the TMO spotted Benoit Guyot holding Dusautoir in the scrum to open up the gap.
The home scrum had clearly got the upper hand and they were able to put the pressure on once more from another powerful set-piece. And they took the lead with half an hour remaining when McAlister took too long to roll away from a tackle.
Toulouse reacted with a stunning team try which McAlister finished off. Bezy made the initial dart off the back of a ruck before feeding Alexis Palisson inside.
The former Toulon winger then sent his Kiwi teammate over for a third try of the afternoon. McAlister did miss the conversion from the left, but the visitors led 22-19.
But having got back in front, Toulouse were immediately reduced to 14 men when Flynn stupidly took out Cestaro and was given a yellow card. Audy slotted the penalty to level the scores.
And they took the lead two minutes later when Florian Fritz kicked the ball away after a knock-on from Harinordoquy, handing Audy a simple shot at goal, which he accepted.
Toulouse were in disarray and La Rochelle took full advantage with a stunning counter from a loose McAlister kick.
In the end it was Alofa who scored after a chipped kick over from Audy, with the winger too quick for the covering Patricio Albacete. Audy’s conversion drifted wide but La Rochelle led 30-22 with less than 20 minutes remaining.
The visitors were still a man down, but earned a penalty from some sloppy play by Romain Sazy, and McAlister reduced the deficit with his second penalty.
Flynn came back, but it made no difference to Toulouse’s scrum problems, and but Audy wasn’t able to take advantage missing his third penalty of the afternoon.
But it made no difference as La Rochelle threw everything at Toulouse, and when the visitors were stretched, the ball was spread to Alofa, who finished in acrobatic style.
This time Audy was on target and his conversion stretched the lead to 12 points.
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Bobo, Alofa 2
Penalties: Audy 6
Tries: Flynn, Tekori, McAlister
Conversions: McAlister 2
Penalties: McAlister 2
Yellow Card: Flynn
La Rochelle: 15 Arthur Cestaro, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sereli Bobo, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Nicolas Djebaili, 5 Jacobus Grobler, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio (c), 2 Hika Forbes, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Geledan, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Romain Sazy, 19 Benoit Guyot, 20 Julien Berger, 21 Albert Vulivuli, 22 Hamish Gard, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili
Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Gregory Lamboley, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Kisi Pulu
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Patricio Albacete, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 Gael Fickou, 22 Alexis Palisson, 23 Neemia Tialata
Referee: Cyril Lafon
- Planet Rugby