South African Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe has scored his sixth try in as many games this season as Toulouse have won 30-24 in European Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 in the French Top 14 Saturday.
Kolbe crossed in the first half, with a perfect start performance by the fly-half Thomas Ramos against a well-changed Racing before the continental final next Saturday against the Exeter Chiefs in Bristol.
The match was played under the cloud of an off-field political row in French rugby between the Professional Rugby League (LNR) and the Federation (FFR) over additional test matches this fall.
The dispute escalated further on Saturday as the NRL said the 31-man France squad appointed by national coach Fabien Galthie earlier this week to host Wales on October 24 was “null and void. “.
The FFR responded with its own letter reminding the LNR of its obligation to release players for international windows designated by the world body World Rugby.
Back on the pitch, Racing coach Laurent Travers made 12 changes from winning the European semi-final two weeks ago, but France team members Olivier Klemenczak and Teddy Thomas as well as the Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan retained their places.
Travers’ Toulouse counterpart, Ugo Mola, started all of his eight members of the Blues squad except one as hooker Julien Marchand was rested and full-back Ramos had gone outside, with Romain Ntamack starting in the inner center.
The visitors led 7-3 after 11 minutes as winger Matthis Lebel scored straight from Ramos’ restart after Maxime Machenaud opened the scoring with a penalty.
French scrum-half Machenaud netted two more penalties before Kolbe touched the ground to maintain his impressive early-season scoring record after Ntamack orchestrated an away break.
Ramos added a penalty before Klemenczak installed Donovan Taofifenua to slalom for his first senior try and Machenaud’s conversion reduced the deficit to 17-16 at the break.
Travers’ men regained the lead three minutes after the interval as former French Under-20 No.8 Jordan Joseph crashed, but Australia’s Zack Holmes restored the lead with a half. hour left and Ramos’ extras were 24-21.
Francois Trinh-Duc and Ramos traded penalties to make it 30-24 with five minutes left, but the visitors were keen to stay top of the table as the hosts lost their opener of the campaign.
Previously, Kolbe’s World Cup winner Eben Etzebeth returned from a rib injury in Toulon’s 25-21 win over Montpellier.
The trip from Clermont to Bordeaux-Begles scheduled for Sunday was postponed due to the registration of coronavirus cases by the hosts, but Lyon’s visit to Pau continues.
© 2020 AFP