France’s Grand Slam heroes were in top form in the big game of the Top 14 this weekend as Antoine Dupont and Toulouse edged out Grégory Alldritt’s La Rochelle.
Les Rouge et Noir, who won the double last year, entered the game outside the play-off places, needing a win to keep their fate in their own hands.
But they did just that, winning 23-16 in a hugely entertaining affair with France skipper Dupont at the heart of it all.
Brice Dulin had given the visitors an early lead with his clever finish, but the full-back saw his clearance kick charged down almost immediately by Dupont from the restart, with the scrum-half then racing onto the ball to level the scores.
The 2022 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship followed that up by playing a pivotal role in Toulouse’s next try, Thibaud Flament eventually running a delightful line to race in from 40 metres out.
Dupont was everywhere, even putting in one huge tackle on Alldritt, the man who had fed him for the try that clinched the Slam in Paris against England.
But it was another France international, Thomas Ramos, who produced perhaps the moment of the game.
After failing to deal with a high ball, Ramos scrambled back to tackle Ihaia West before jumping up and intercepting Alldritt’s offload before kicking on the turn from just outside his own 22 and finding touch in La Rochelle’s 22 for a remarkable 50:22.
From there, Toulouse saw out the game to move back into sixth spot ahead of next week’s European quarter-final against Munster.
Elsewhere in France, Lyon picked up an important win against Montpellier as France pair Dylan Cretin and Demba Bamba both crossed for tries, while Bamba’s tighthead rival Mohamed Haouas saw red for a dangerous tackle while Montpellier also lost second row Paul Willemse to injury.