TOP14 WRAP: Ma’a Nonu maybe 38 years of age, but the former All Black centre showed glimpses of his former glittering past in an assured comeback for Toulon in their comprehensive 38-9 Top 14 victory over Agen on Saturday.
More than 900 days since he last turned out for Toulon, the two-time World Cup winner, capped 103 times by New Zealand, again proved a menacing presence in midfield, against an Agen side that has now lost all nine games this season.
Nonu bossed Toulon’s effective defence, producing a couple of turnovers and a solid tackling display, albeit against the club which has not only the worst attacking record of the Top 14, but also the worst defensive one.
A slick one-step pass by Nonu’s Australian midfield partner Duncan Paia’aua enabled winger Erwan Dridi a clear run in for the opening try.
The Kiwi’s attacking guile was demonstrated as he produced a deft grubber through that was collected on the Agen line by Fijian flanker Masivesi Dakuwaqa for try number two.
France scrum-half Baptiste Serin missed the two conversions, having hit an early penalty.
Two Paul Abadie penalties, allied with a Jean-Marcellin Buttin drop-goal, kept Agen in the game at 13-9 at half-time.
The tide quickly changed in the second half, Tongan half-back Sonatane Takulua, with literally his first touch of the ball after coming on for Isaia Toeava, darted over from close range after an effective attacking line-out.
Theo Dachary, who replaced Nonu after 57 minutes, crossed for Toulon’s fourth try after fine bulldozing work by Paia’aua, Serin converting.
And flank Swan Rebbadj added some gloss for Toulon by muscling over for a fifth and final try in injury time after fielding a pinpoint crosskick by Serin, who also converted.
Earlier in the day Toulouse beat Pau 22-16, a welcome first victory during the international window that has seen the team deprived of its players on Test duty.
Antoine Hastoy scored all of Pau’s points, thanks to a try, conversion and three penalties.
Toulouse’s sole try came from veteran France back Maxime Medard, Australian playmaker Zack Holmes making the difference as he hit the conversion and five penalties.
Gaetan Germain kicked 19 points to help Bayonne notch up an impressive 29-20 home win over Montpellier.
But Racing 92 left it late, scrambling to a 23-19 win away at Brive thanks to a last-minute Fabien Sanconnie try converted by Francois Trinh-Duc.
Bordeaux-Begles edged Castres 30-29 on Friday, while Stade Francais host La Rochelle in Sunday’s match.
Castres 29 Bordeaux-Begles 30
Agen 9 Toulon 38
Bayonne 29 Montpellier 20
Brive 19 Racing92 23
Pau 16 Toulouse 22
Stade Francais v La Rochelle