Toulouse opens Top 14 title defense with Bordeaux defeat

Former All Blacks winger Julian Savea started the new campaign with a try in Toulon's first game of the season. — AFP
Former All Blacks winger Julian Savea started the new campaign with a try in Toulon's first game of the season. — AFP

PARIS — Toulouse suffered a 30-25 defeat by Bordeaux-Begles with Australian Blair Connor scoring for the hosts, as the champions began the defense of their French Top 14 title on Saturday.

Bordeaux-Begles stalwart Connor, 30, in his 10th season with the club, crossed with half an hour remaining as Christophe Urios started his tenure as head coach with an impressive result, a first league loss for the visitors since April.

Toulouse were without 13 players away on international duty ahead of the Rugby World Cup, a Top 14 high, as they prepared for the new campaign.

"When I saw their lineup I said 'I have to stop moaning'," Urios told Canal+.

"It was quite a surprising match, with crazy intensity, things happening all over the place and they caused us plenty of problems," Urios, who is missing seven squad members due to the same reason, added.

Toulouse led 17-16 at the break following an ill-disciplined first half which included two yellow cards and three referrals to the television match official.

Connor scored 10 minutes into the second half before Toulouse's Theo Belan made the most of a Ben Botica mistake to dive over in the corner for the away side.

Japan hooker Takeshi Hino, signed as World Cup cover for Toulouse, left the field after an hour of play with a cut above the eye.

France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert converted his own 66th-minute try to claim a 30-25 advantage and even missed two late penalties which would have denied the champions a losing bonus point.

Earlier on Saturday, former New Zealand winger Julian Savea scored as Toulon crushed Agen 44-25 on Saturday.

Savea, 29, who failed to score until three months into last season, was joined by former Georgia forward Mamuka Gorgodze and former France youth international Julien Heriteau on the scoreboard, who both claimed doubles.

The 54-time All Black's future at Stade Felix Mayol had been in doubt last year after owner Mourad Boudjellal froze him out following a series of underwhelming displays.

He is likely to see more game time this season playing, unusually at center, as former France midfielder Mathieu Bastareaud has left the club and Australian Duncan Paia'aua has been ruled out for several weeks with an Achilles injury, although England's Ben Te'o has arrived as Rugby World Cup cover.

Elsewhere, promoted Bayonne claimed a shock victory at ambitious Racing 92, overcoming the capital city outfit 24-17.

On Sunday, last season's losing finalists Clermont host La Rochelle in Ronan O'Gara's first game in charge of the visitors' backs. — AFP