Toulon outmuscle Bayonne
Toulon made a successful start to the defence of their Top 14 title as they beat Bayonne 29-15 at the Stade Jean Dauger in Friday’s season curtain-raiser.
After ending their 22-year wait to lift the top-flight shield, Bernard Laporte's men got their retention bid underway with a hard-fought victory in south west France.
Mathieu Bastareaud and David Smith scored the only tries of the match in the second half after the reigning European and French champions were held 12-12 at half time.
Australian fly-half Matt Giteau - facing the unenviable task of filling the void left by the retired Jonny Wilkinson - contributed 16 points from the tee as Toulon got off to a winning, albeit unglamourous, start.
With Bayonne struggling to make their mark on the game in the opening exchanges, Giteau fired the visitors into the lead and opened up a kicking duel with Bustos Moyano.
Argentine winger Moyano restored parity with his first penalty of the evening and went on to match Giteau as the sides entered the break level.
Bayonne struggled to deal with Toulon's superior scrummaging ability following the restart and prop Gert Muller was yellow carded after a series of infringements early in the second period.
Full-back Delon Armitage slotted the penalty from range and Toulon made their personnel advantage pay, scoring both tries while Bayonne were reduced to 14 men.
The first came when uncompromising France centre Bastareaud crashed over after a beautifully-crafted play from pivot Giteau.
Bastareaud also played a key role in the second try, providing Toulon a solid platform at the breakdown alongside Steffon Armitage, before winger Smith displayed an excellent change of pace to touch down a loose kick.
Bayonne went down fighting but had little chance of stopping Toulon registering a fine opening salvo; a result which will catch the attention of their rivals given the array of international talent left out of the season opener.
Toulon were lucky to see out the second half with only three points conceded and a full complement of players on the field after a number of infringements were overlooked, but Laporte will cherish points away from home however they come.