By John Fallon
Simon Zebo scored for the third week in a row in the Top 14, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a second loss in four outings for Racing 92.
Their 30-17 loss away to Toulouse last night leaves them eight points adrift of leaders Clermont Auvergne.
The Parisians, with Donnacha Ryan again playing 80 minutes in the second row, trailed 14-3 at the break and fell further behind when former French winger Sofiane Guitoune got his second try.
But Zebo, who again started at full-back, led a revival with a score after 52 minutes but while Argentine wing Juan Imhoff also crossed, they couldn’t rescue the game.
Clermont remain the pace-setters with four wins from four but Pau, with former Munster players Sean Dougall and Paddy Butler impressing in the back row, threatened that run.
Pau, coached by former Munster assistant Simon Mannix, led 13-11 at the break and seemed poised for a great home win when they led 23-17 with just four minutes remaining but Clermont finished with a try from hooker Yohan Beheregaray and five points from the boot of Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw to win 27-23.
Big-spending Montpellier conceded eight tries in a 53-13 hammering at Lyon to pile the pressure on Vern Cotter, while Munster’s December Champions Cup opponents Castres made it three wins from four in a 29-13 win over promoted Grenoble.
Paddy Jackson’s Perpignan remained rooted to the foot of the Top 14 as their miserable return to the top flight continued with a 37-10 thumping away to La Rochelle.
Perpignan changed around their side after three opening losses with Jackson left on the bench and they were still in contention at 10-10 when he was introduced for the closing half hour.
But La Rochelle’s dominance up front saw them dominate from there and struck for four tries to make it two wins from four and leave Perpignan with just one losing bonus point to show after four games.