Toulon clinched a hard-fought 12-9 victory over Bath in France on Sunday, while Ulster recorded a famous comeback win in their European Champions Cup match against Oyonnax.
With both Toulon and Bath deadlocked on eight points coming into the clash, it’s a crucial result for Toulon and takes them to within two points of Pool 5 leaders London Wasps.
Although the first half failed to produce any tries in what was a rather cagey affair, there was a sense in the second half that Toulon were gradually gaining the upper hand, and replacement Fred Michalak finally struck the decisive blow with a match-winning penalty in the 76th minute.
Bath flyhalf George Ford had opened the scoring with an early penalty, but that was quickly cancelled out by Toulon scrumhalf Eric Escande, who drew the scores level before the quarter hour mark.
With both defences holding firm, Ford slotted a well-taken drop goal in the 28th minute, but Escande would have the final say before the break when he knocked over a second penalty.
Ford and Escande again exchanged three-pointers soon after the restart, while clear cut try-scoring opportunities remained few and far between as both sides continued to defend resolutely. Michalak then displayed all his experience to calmly slot over the decisive penalty with less than five minutes to play.
In a thrilling match earlier on Sunday, Ulster completed a remarkable comeback as they overturned a 23-point half-time deficit to ultimately emerge as 24-23 victors against Oyonnax at Stade Charles Mathon.
The game looked dead and buried when Oyonnax roared into a 23-0 lead courtesy of tries to Jeremie Maurouard and Uwa Tawalo, with Nicky Robinson knocking over two conversions and three penalties.
However, Ulster gallantly battled back in the second stanza, with converted tries to Rory Scholes, Craig Gilroy and Kyle McCall drawing them back into the game.
With just two points separating the sides, Paddy Jackson slotted a crucial penalty to hand Ulster the lead for the first time, while a massive scrum with the final play of the game enabled them to complete a famous victory.
Ulster remain second in Pool 1, while winless Oyonnax remain fourth.
Toulon (12) – Penalties: Eric Escande (3), Fred Michalak.
Bath (9) – Penalty: George Ford. Drop goals: Ford (2).
Ulster (24) – Tries: Rory Scholes, Craig Gilroy, Kyle McCall. Conversions: Paddy Jackson (3). Penalty: Jackson.
Oyonnax (23) – Tries: Jeremie Maurouard, Uwa Tawalo. Conversions: Nicky Robinson (2). Penalties: Robinson (3).
Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP Photo