There will be concerns for Toulon head coach Patrice Collazo after star lock Eben Etzebeth prematurely left the field with an apparent rib injury, writes France-based journalist JAMES HARRINGTON.
The last thing Collazo needed two weeks from his side’s coronavirus-delayed European Challenge Cup quarter-final against PRO14 side Scarlets was an injury headache.
But that’s exactly what he got when Etzebeth left the pitch in obvious pain with what looked like a rib injury just 12 second-half minutes into his first Top 14 outing in Toulon colours for six months – and just his ninth in total.
Kept back from the starting lineup for the trip to La Rochelle, the World Cup winner was brought on at half time to make an instant impact, with his side already 19-6 down and on their way to a 29-15 defeat. Minutes after he came on, Etzebeth was back on the sidelines, after struggling to get up following a collision.
For the hosts, Dillyn Leyds made an instant impact. An early interception caused panic in Toulon’s defensive ranks and it’s clear he has already developed a strong relationship with midfield partner and fellow new arrival Raymond Rhule.
Rynhardt Elstadt scored twice in a remarkable match – capped by a mind-blowing late length-of-the-pitch try – as Toulouse snarled epic defiance at Clermont, despite being reduced to 13 players after Joe Tekori and Rory Arnold were sent off either side of half time.
Such was Clermont’s dominance early on that Cheslin Kolbe was more notable in his defensive role before he limped off after 53 minutes.
The hosts were 23-5 ahead at the break. But Toulouse were far from beaten, and briefly took the lead with less than 15 minutes left of a ridiculous second half, courtesy of that astonishing end-to-end score, only to end up on the wrong end of a 33-30 final scoreline.
Retief and Peet Marais helped Brive to a straightforward 43-23 win over Bayonne, for whom Sean Robinson came on as a second-half replacement.
Rory Kockott scored under the posts from a signature quick-tap penalty as Castres came from behind to beat a spirited Agen 22-26 on the road. Daniel Kotze came on after 50 minutes to shore up the visitors’ scrum, while centre Johann Sadie started for the hosts, and lock Jeremy Jordaans came on late in an effort to snatch what would have been a deserved victory from the jaws of defeat.
In the opening match of the Top 14 season, Handre Pollard put six months with no rugby time behind him in double-quick time, scoring 13 points for Montpellier and making the first Top 14 try of the 2020-21 season with a smart kick-through Pau’s defense as the hosts raced into a 23-10 half-time lead.
His efforts were in a losing cause, as Pau refused to go quietly into the night. Montpellier conceded 22 penalties and, ultimately, the game. They finally gave up the lead, appropriately enough, to an after-the-hooter penalty try as their scrum crumbled under determined match-winning pressure from Pau’s pack. The final score was 23-26.
Pollard was one of four South Africans in Montpellier’s starting lineup, alongside Jan Serfontein, Janse Van Rensburg, and Pretoria-born French international Paul Willemse, while head coach Xavier Garbajosa kept Bismarck du Plessis and Cobus Reinach in reserve for a second-half assault.
Both Bernard Le Roux and Anthonie Claassen were rested for Racing 92’s 23-27 victory at Lyon, while Stade Francais vs Bordeaux was postponed because of coronavirus.