A first-minute try for Romain Ntamack helped Toulouse make it three wins from three with a 17-15 success away to Montpellier that pushed last season’s double winners top of the Top 14.
It took just 41 seconds for Toulouse to break the deadlock, with Ntamack on the end of a flowing move from the reigning champions, with Thomas Ramos adding the extras.
Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi responded with a penalty before half-time for Montpellier but when Ntamack put Lucas Tauzin in for Toulouse’s second try, the game looked to be over.
Ramos’ conversion and a further penalty made it 17-3, but a try from debutant Martin Doan brought Montpellier back into it, and after Toulouse were reduced to 13 men because of scrum infringements, Garbisi found Vincent Rattez with a cross-kick to make it 17-15. He could not convert, and Montpellier could not find a way through on one last attack as Toulouse held on.
Elsewhere in France, Ntamack’s main rival for the France No.10 jersey, Matthieu Jalibert, came on and helped Bordeaux-Bègles to a 23-23 draw away to Castres.
While Jalibert missed a couple of late penalties that could have earned the win, it was his introduction that appeared to spark Bordeaux, with France flanker Cameron Woki among the try-scorers at the Stade Pierre Fabre.
There were concerns however over scrum-half Maxime Lucu, who Fabien Galthié has singled out as a potential debutant for Les Bleus this November, after he was on the wrong end of a late tackle from Ryno Pieterse that saw the second row shown his marching orders with 15 minutes remaining.
However, the scrum-half confirmed on social media that he was ok following the tackle.
Merci à tous pour vos messages de bienveillance ♥️
Tout va bien ! Toujours debout 👊🏻
— Lucu Maxime (@LucuMaxime) September 18, 2021
Gaëtan Barlot, who started all three Tests for France in Australia this summer, had got Castres’ first try of the game.
His front-row colleague against the Wallabies, Demba Bamba, was also among the scorers in a thumping Lyon win against Perpignan, 47-3.
Bamba got the ball rolling early on, with Pierre-Louis Barassi, who later went off injured, and Baptiste Couilloud, also crossing the whitewash.
And Camille Chat, who helped Les Bleus to second place in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, got a second-half try for Racing 92, beaten 28-19 by Top 14 newcomers Biarritz.
In the evening kick-off, Tani Vili, who was part of France’s summer tour to Australia, scored a second-half try as Clermont edged past La Rochelle 23-22, with France Under-20s flanker Matthias Haddad crossing at the death to earn the visitors a losing bonus point.