Paris - Richard Cockerill emerged with a 33-23 win from his
first match in charge of crisis-hit Toulon on Sunday compounding the misery of
Top 14 arch-rivals Toulouse.
Cockerill took over after fellow Englishman Mike Ford quit
as head coach this week after Toulon were beaten by Clermont in the European
Champions Cup quarter-finals.
"This win is very positive for us," said
Cockerill. "The team's spirit was not broken. Our fate is now in our
Toulon are well positioned to qualify for the elite six-team
play-offs as they sit fourth with 57 points after overtaking Castres, beaten
17-16 at home by Lyon, on Saturday.
But record 19-time French champions Toulouse slipped to 12th
- six points off the first play-off spot - and are set to miss the final phase
for the first time since 1976.
And their nightmare season continued with France
international prop Cyril Baille ruled out for months with ruptured knee
"This evening we took another knock on the head,"
said coach Ugo Mola. "To qualify we need to take 15 points and again that
might not even be enough.
"The season has been very long, harsh. We've left a lot
out there even if this evening I didn't have the impression that Toulouse gave
"We have to finish the season well for the players then
we have to think about rebuilding."
Toulouse were always on the back foot with Toulon getting a
first penalty try after a Maxime Mdard knock on after 11 minutes, with Guilhem
Guirado touching down the second on 23 minutes.
Paul Perez got a try five minutes later as Toulouse came
within four points at the break (17-13). But Toulouse were out of the running
after former All Black's Ma'a Nonu powered over to push Toulon 33-16 ahead on
Leigh Halfpenny accounted for 18 of Toulon's points, with
Franois Trinh-Duc's drop kick rounding off the scores.
Earlier All Black legend Dan Carter helped Racing 92 shade
Pau 34-32 to push the defending champions up to sixth.
This was Racing's second successive win in the wake of the
aborted merger fiasco with Stade Francais, and it lifted them back into the
play-off contention for the first time since before Christmas.
The Parisian outfit were far from happy with the result
"It's two points lost," said Racing backs coach
Laurent Labit in reference to the attacking and defending bonuses.
"And if we finish level with them at the end of the
season Pau will be ahead of us," he lamented.
Racing prop Eddy Ben Arous reflected: "That's the
second straight game where we started well but failed to finish off. We have to
take it a step further."
Carter, booed off after Racing's defeat last month to
leaders La Rochelle, contributed two penalties and converted all four tries
from fellow New Zealanders Joe Rokocoko and Ben Tameifuna, Juan Imhoff, and
Racing were coasting 27-8 at the break and heading towards a
bonus point but Pau launched a vigorous fightback in the second half, crossing
over four times in the closing 20 minutes.
Their fifth and final try came from Daniel Ramsay in the
"I was proud of how they finished, it showed the values
that exist at this club, we never let it drop," said Pau head coach Simon
Mannix whose side also picked up a defensive bonus point.
La Rochelle edged closer to a semi-final spot Saturday with
a 16-5 home win against Bordeaux but rivals Clermont faced increasing pressure
from Montpellier after losing 26-21 to Brive.
La Rochelle extended their lead on second-placed Clermont to
14 points and matched Toulouse's unbeaten record of 11 games from the 2009 and
But Clermont's shock defeat saw their advantage on
third-placed Montpellier, who beat Grenoble 54-14, cut to four points with the
top two teams qualifying automatically for the semi-finals.