World Cup-winning Springbok Eben Etzebeth had a far more successful French debut than his South African teammate Handre Pollard.
Etzebeth marked his Top 14 debut with a fourth-minute intercept try that saw him charge home from 40 metres for the opening score in a comprehensive 41-19 victory over Clermont, the club’s eighth straight win.
Etzebeth was omnipresent throughout and received a standing ovation when he was subbed off with 10 minutes to play.
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This follows compatriot Pollard wasting eight points from the boot on his French debut, as Montpellier lost 25-29 at Racing 92.
A pinpoint Louis Carbonel kick-pass saw wing Bryce Heem cross for Toulon’s second try, while Georgian prop Beka Gigashvili burrowed over shortly after.
Clermont saw prop Rabah Slimani yellow carded but responded with a try from Sipili Falatea before Toulon closed the first-half with a bonus-point fourth try from Raphael Lakafia.
Bender's French adventure off to a shockerhttps://t.co/52alnlN3kb
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 22, 2019
Clermont’s France wing Damien Penaud was first over the whitewash in the second period, before Toulon hit back through centre Julien Heriteau and a penalty try, the visitors having the final word with a third try through George Merrick.
The game kicked off with an announcement from controversial Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal that he would step down at the end of the season, bringing a close to a star-spangled period for the Mediterranean club.
“I’ve tried to change the destiny of this club and I hope something of that will remain,” said Boudjellal, who financed a raft of high-profile signings including Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha and Carl Hayman as the team powered to three European titles.
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