Frederic Michalak kicked six penalties as Toulon laboured to an 18-13 win over Bordeaux-Bègles at Mayol.
After last week’s loss to Racing, Toulon were expecting a reaction, but in the end Bordeaux were well-worth their losing bonus-point, coping admirably despite spending 20 minutes a man down.
The game was very similar to Toulon’s home loss to Grenoble in January, their last at Mayol, but there was to be no late interception this time around, although Metuisela Talebula almost got away in the final minute.
It was Bordeaux who made the better start, slotting an early penalty through Lionel Beauxis after Alexandre Menini had been penalised.
Michalak levelled matters immediately after Bordeaux were caught offside, but it didn’t last long.
The visitors took advantage of a mistake from James O’Connor, and after some quick hands Charles Brousse found himself with options on either side.
In the end he went for the little inside pass to centre partner Julien Rey, who went over unopposed. Beauxis’ conversion made it 10-3.
Toulon responded once more, with Michalak adding another penalty to reduce the deficit to four.
And late in the first half Michalak added two more penalties to give Toulon a 12-10 advantage at the break, having trailed for much of the half.
They continued in the same manner early in the second half, with another Michalak penalty, although Bordeaux responded straightaway through Beauxis.
But Toulon were in the ascendancy, and with the visitors consistently giving away penalties, it was inevitable that they would eventually lose someone to the sin-bin.
It was Clement Maynadier who paid the price for his team’s indiscretions, failing to release O’Connor before contesting the ball.
Toulon immediately made their intentions clear by turning down the shot at goal to kick for the corner.
That decision looked to have worked when Menini crashed over, but after consultation with the TMO, the try was disallowed for obstruction by Carl Hayman to open the gap for his hooker.
Toulon took advantage of Bordeaux’s lack of a lineout thrower to get the ball back and at the next scrum they earned a simple penalty.
This time Hayman chose the three points, and Michalak obliged to make it 18-13 with just under half an hour remaining.
Bordeaux’s indiscipline was costing them dear, and they gave up another ten metres soon after when skipper Louis-Benoit Madaule shook his head at a penalty given against his team.
That gave Toulon the chance to take a scrum five metres out, but after conceding a first penalty, Bordeaux were able to hold off the home pack second time around, keeping the deficit at five as Bordeaux got back up to a full complement.
Toulon could have stretched their lead beyond a score just after the hour when Bordeaux were penalised once more, but this time Michalak was off-target from out wide.
Bordeaux were frustrating the home side, but their scrum was coming second-best, and with ten minutes remaining they lost Patrick Toetu to a yellow card, although Michalak missed the simple penalty.
And it was the visitors who managed to establish themselves in Toulon territory as the reigning champions showed some signs of nerves.
But a huge scrum four minutes from time gave Toulon back the ball, and they kicked back into Bordeaux territory and from there they held on despite a late scare from a Bordeaux turnover.
Penalties: Michalak 6
Penalties: Beauxis 2
Yellow Cards: Maynadier, Toetu
Toulon: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Sebastien Tillous Borde, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Gerhard Vosloo, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Carl Hayman (c), 2 Jean-Charles Orioli, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Konstantin Mikautadze, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Rudi Wulf, 21 Delon Armitage, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Levan Chilachava.
Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Romain Lonca, 14 Metuisela Talebula, 13 Charles Brousse, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Taisina Tuifua, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Louis-Benoit Madaule (c), 5 Berend Botha, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Zaza Navrozashvili, 2 Clement Maynadier, 1 Sebastien Taofifenua.
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Patrick Toetu, 19 Adam Jaulhac, 20 Jean-Blaise Lespinasse, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Pierre Bernard, 23 Sofiane Guitoune
Referee: Cédric Marchat