Leyds spoils Warrick Gelant's Racing 92 debut
TOP 14 SATURDAY WRAP: South Africa fullback Dillyn Leyds scored nine points from the tee as La Rochelle beat Racing92 24-19 to take over as leaders of the French Top 14 on Saturday.
Leyds, 30, kicked three conversions and a penalty as the European Champions Cup holders moved above Toulouse, who head to Top 14 champions Montpellier on Sunday, after five rounds of the season.
Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell slotted a late penalty to secure a defensive bonus point for the Parisians, who led until the final 12 minutes.
“We were snoring at half-time,” La Rochelle prop Thierry Paiva told reporters.
“It’s normal, when you’re asleep, you need to wake, and it worked.”
Greasy conditions welcomed a Stade Marcel-Deflandre that was sold-out for a record-extending 70th straight league game after a day of heavy rain on the Atlantic coast.
South Africa fullback Warrick Gelant made his Racing debut after arriving in Paris just eight days ago following his move from the Stormers.
The visitors led 16-7 at the break as New Zealand centre Francis Saili made the most of Teddy Thomas’ knock-on on his own goal-line following a Henry Chavancy kick to claim his maiden Racing try.
Russell had kicked three penalties for the Parisians before Samoa playmaker UJ Seuteni snuck over for the home side earlier in the half.
France’s Thomas almost made up for his earlier mistake by sliding over in the corner but fumbled the ball inches from the line with half an hour to play.
The former Racing wing then redeemed himself with 10 minutes left by burrowing to scoring on the right flank.
Gelant’s fellow Springbok fullback Leyds, who also moved to France from the Stormers but in 2020, then converted to make it 17-16 and La Rochelle led for the first time.
Seuteni then turned the provider with less than five minutes left, setting up Pierre Boudehent as Leyds slotted the extras to make sure of the victory and top spot.
‘Back to my best’
Earlier, France wing Alivereti Raka scored three times as Clermont easily overcame Lyon 43-20.
Fijian-born Raka, who made the last of his five Test appearances in December 2020, crossed twice before the break and then claimed his first hat-trick in five years with half an hour to play.
“I’m happy to be back to my best,” Raka told reporters.
“I worked hard, and I made the most of passes that get to the wings. The hat-trick comes from work from the whole team,” the 27-year-old added.
Les Bleus scrumhalf Baptiste Couilloud and the Boks’ No.8 Arno Botha claimed tries for the visitors who continue to look for their first victory at Stade Marcel Michelin since 1939.
Elsewhere, Fiji’s Olympic champion Jiuta Wainiqolo clinched his third try of the season as Toulon beat Pau 34-17 and South African stand-off Tristan Tedder was successful with three penalties as Perpignan held on to edge last season’s runners-up Castres 14-10.
On Sunday, second-placed Toulouse travel to Montpellier in third but they rest World Rugby player of the year Antoine Dupont, with Arthur Retiere partnering his brother Edgar at halfback.
French Top 14 results on Saturday:
Bordeaux-Begles 15-10 Stade Francais
Clermont 43-20 Lyon
Brive 25-22 Bayonne
Pau 17-34 Toulon
Perpignan 14-10 Castres
La Rochelle 24-19 Racing92
Montpellier v Toulouse (19,05GMT)