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Cockerill kicks off with victory, Racing back in the mix

By Alex Fisher
Ma'a Nonu

Richard Cockerill’s tenure as interim Toulon head coach got off to a winning start as they beat Toulouse 33-23 to keep their Top 14 play-off hopes in tact.

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Cockerill replaced Mike Ford in the dugout for the visit of Toulouse and he got the reaction he wanted as the hosts ran in three tries to hold onto fourth place in the table.

Ma’a Nonu grabbed Toulon’s third score after Guilhem Guirado and a penalty try after Maxime Medard’s yellow card had given them a first-half advantage.

It was the boot of Leigh Halfpenny that proved vital, though, as the Wales full-back kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties and three successful conversions.

Census Johnston crossed late on for the visitors but it was too little, too late as Toulon kept in touch with third-placed Montpellier.

Reigning champions Racing 92 are also in the hunt for a top-six finish after surviving a late scare to beat Pau 34-32, the Paris club nearly throwing away a 26-point lead in the second half.

First-half tries from Joe Rokocoko, Juan Imhoff and Ben Tameifuna seemed to have given them total control of proceedings, with Dan Carter kicking 12 points as they went into the break 27-8 ahead.

That lead was stretched to 34-8 through Henry Chavancy after the restart, but Pau came storming back to earn a losing bonus point and would have won had Brandon Fajardo been more accurate from the tee.

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Taniela Moa began their revival on the hour with Watisoni Votu, Romain Buros and Daniel Ramsay all touching down to give Racing a scare.

However, Fajardo could only convert two of the four tries and that proved costly as Racing moved up to seventh, level with fifth-placed Pau and Castres.

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finn 9 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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