Reigning Top 14 champions Clermont Auvergne bounced back from their thrashing at La Rochelle last weekend with a 62-6 victory over bottom club Brive on Saturday.
After lifting the 2016-17 crown three months ago it has been a mixed start for Clermont this season with only one win – against Toulon – from their opening three matches.
They were humbled 51-20 by La Rochelle last time out but Franck Azema got just the reaction he would have been looking for as they eased to a bonus-point win.
The triumph – inspired by a hat-trick from Alivereti Raka – lifted Clermont back towards the top of the fledgling table but just shy of the top six.
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) September 16, 2017
Montpellier, who play Toulon on Sunday, continue to lead the way but Lyon and La Rochelle are both just one point adrift after recording their third wins of the season.
A comprehensive 49-14 victory over Bordeaux Begles gives Lyon the slight edge on points difference, Lionel Beauxis starring with 24 points of his own at the Stade Gerland.
La Rochelle, who topped the end of season table in 2016-17 before losing in the semi-finals, look well poised again after a narrow 20-15 success over Agen.
It was a match dominated by La Rochelle but a solid defensive display from Agen denied their opponents the bonus point that would have taken them level with Montpellier.
Toulouse are a further point back after they ran in seven tries on their way to a 53-17 hammering of Stade Francais – Thomas Ramos crossing twice and Cheslin Kolbe continuing his rich vein of form.
Just below the revitalised Clermont are Pau after their 28-13 triumph over Castres Olympique, a Watisoni Votu double helping secure back-to-back wins for Simon Mannix’s side.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now