Top14: Toulouse down Toulon to go top
The four-try, bonus point victory over the defending European champions allowed Toulouse to end 2015 with a three-point lead over Clermont and Racing 92. It was a night to forget for Toulon's World Cup winner Ma'a Nonu, whose intercepted pass allowed Gael Fickou to score the first try after just 13 minutes.
Maxime Medard added a second try after a dazzling run from Florian Fritz before Yacouba Camara and Dorian Aldegheri piled on the misery for Toulon, whose only try came from James O'Connor on the hour mark.
Toulon's problems were compounded when South African No.8 Duane Vermeulen, who underwent neck surgery in July, was stretchered off with a head injury suffered as he tried to prevent Medard's 44th minute try.
"It was a great night, we showed pride and humility. Leading the table? What is important is to be in the top six [play-off spots] when it matters," Toulouse coach Ugo Mola, who refused to get carried away by the win, said.
*Earlier, Racing 92 handed previous leaders Clermont a 20-16 defeat.
Racing hadn't won at Clermont since 1994 but second half tries from Johan Goosen and Henry Chavancy, plus 10 points from the boot of Maxime Machenaud, handed the visitors victory at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.
Clermont led 9-6 at half-time, courtesy of three Morgan Parra penalties but Racing responded with 14 unanswered points before Fritz Lee's 64th minute try gave Clermont hope, only for Racing to resist a late onslaught from the home side.
"It's hugely satisfying. Very few teams win here. We made 12 changes, the replacements did well. Our squad is rich in both quality and quantity. I've been here three years now and this season I feel there's a different mindset," said Racing coach Laurent Labit, who kept star fly-half Dan Carter on the bench until the final quarter of an hour.
*Defending champions Stade Francais crashed to a seventh defeat of a testing season as they were beaten 12-25 by bottom side Oyonnax.
Oyonnax were coming off three successive lopsided losses but climbed off the foot of the table as the boot of Regis Lespinas accounted for 17 points, with Jimmy Yobo scoring the game's only try. Stade face an increasingly difficult challenge to defend their crown having won just four of 11 matches, a series of results that has left the capital club just one place above the relegation spots.
"We knew that given Oyonnax are playing for their survival that they would be really up for it. We committed lots of knock-ons and couldn't finish off our moves," bemoaned Stade coach Gonzalo Quesada.
Stade flyhalf Morne Steyn and his Oyonnax counterpart Lespinas knocked over three penalties apiece as the sides went into the interval level at 9-9 on the artificial surface at the Stade Charles-Mathon. Springbok Steyn booted another penalty to give Stade a 12-9 lead early in the second half, but it was all Oyonnax from that point onwards.
The hosts benefitted from a huge stroke of good fortune shortly after, when Lespinas struck the upright with a penalty, only for the ball to bounce back to Yobo who touched down to put Oyonnax ahead, with Lespinas adding the conversion.
Lespinas added two further penalties to give the home side breathing space before Quentin Etienne slotted over from close to 50 metres out, as Stade's cause was hampered by the sin-binning of fullback Camara.
*Castres registered a fourth straight win as they beat Brive 23-8, with Rory Kockott kicking 13 points on top of tries from Julien Dumora and Julien Caminati. Montpellier secured a bonus-point victory by running in six tries to ease past Agen 45-20, while Bordeaux saw off Grenoble 25-19.
*Pau, who had former All Blacks Colin Slade and Conrad Smith playing together for the first time, scraped out a 15-11 win at home to La Rochelle.
French Top 14 results:
Oyonnax 25-12 Stade Francais
Castres 23-8 Brive
Montpellier 45-20 Agen
Bordeaux-Begles 25-19 Grenoble
Pau 15-11 La Rochelle
Clermont 16-20 Racing
Toulouse 31-8 Toulon
French Top 14 table (played, won, drawn, lost, points for, points against, bonus points, total points):
Toulouse 11 8 0 3 292 155 5 37
Clermont 11 6 1 4 292 199 8 34
Racing 92 11 8 1 2 221 204 0 34
Toulon 11 6 0 5 360 224 8 32
Bordeaux 11 7 1 3 248 211 2 32
Montpellier 11 7 0 4 295 284 3 31
Brive 11 6 0 5 205 187 4 28
Castres 11 6 0 5 254 239 4 28
La Rochelle 11 4 0 7 233 252 6 22
Grenoble 11 4 0 7 248 299 3 19
Pau 11 4 1 6 187 295 1 19
Stade Francais 11 4 0 7 211 245 2 18
Oyonnax 11 3 0 8 200 343 2 14
Agen 11 2 0 9 216 325 2 10