Stade Toulousain 29 (23)
Bayonne 20 (10)
First-half tries from Census Johnston and Clément Poitrenaud were enough to secure Stade Toulousain a 29-20 home win against early pace-setters Bayonne on Friday night.
The Basques had arrived as surprise league leaders after five wins from six, but they paid the penalty for a sloppy and error-strewn first period as the European champions played some trademark running rugby. Although Bayonne fought back after the interval they couldn't make up the 13-point gap that Toulouse had opened up as their illustrious hosts knocked them off their league perch.
Top 14 League Table
Bayonne started brightly and even scored the game's opening try after just eight minutes when South African winger Joe Pietersen chased down Jean-Jo Marmouyet's kick and touched down in the corner. Julien Audy's conversion made it 3-7 (after David Skrela had initially kicked Toulouse ahead with a sixth-minute penalty) and the former Montauban scrum-half was also on target with an 18th-minute penalty as Bayonne maintained their early pressure.
But Toulouse fly-half Skrela kept the hosts in touch with three successful kicks of his own as Bayonne were continually penalized, before two tries in 10 minutes before the break proved decisive.
First over was Samoan prop Johnston, who bulldozed his way through three tackles to score under the posts after good work from skipper Thierry Dusautoir, before Poitrenaud also touched down to round off a flowing move that featured superb handling by the home side's formidable back line.
Skrela converted both to leave Guy Noves' side 23-10 to the good at the break in front a sold out audience at the Stade Ernest Wallon. The hosts didn't have it all their own way, however, and lost Argentine lock Patricio Albacete at half time with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Leading try and point-scorers in Top 14
Toulouse appeared to relax at the start of the second half and Bayonne seized their chance with a 10-point burst in four minutes as Audy added his second penalty before winger Yoann Huget beat Vincent Clerc (with the aid of a timely nudge) to touch down for the Basques. Audy's conversion narrowed the gap to just three points, but Bayonne's hopes of another upset were dashed when hooker David Roumieu was yellow-carded for preventing Byron Kelleher from releasing the ball at a ruck in the 59th minute.
Bayonne head coach Christian Gajan described the sin-binning as "extremely severe", and the Basques were doubly punished when Skrela kicked the resultant penalty from the sidelines.
Replacement fly-half Nicolas Bézy extended the lead to nine points with yet another penalty - 10 minutes from time - leaving Bayonne to rue their ill-discipline as they saw the defensive bonus slip through their hands.
"We are pleased with the victory tonight," said Toulouse boss Noves. "Last year Bayonne managed to take the defensive bonus. We tried to stop them this time and that's a good thing," he added.
Gajan, meanwhile, lamented his side's empty-handed exit. "We deserved the bonus point on the second half performance. On the first there is nothing to say. Stade Toulousain were very good," he said afterwards.
"They were tactically sharp and we struggled to cope. but the players responded well in the second half," he added.
||Skrela (4), Bézy