Toulouse opened their Top 14 campaign on Sunday with a 26-25 victory at Bordeaux-Begles as the hosts missed three consecutive late penalties.
The visitors fought back from a 22-9 half-time deficit to lead, before clinging on in dramatic circumstances in the final 10 minutes.
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Madosh Tambwe scored two tries and former Toulouse center Remi Lamerat touched down in the opening period as Bordeaux built a commanding advantage despite three penalties from Toulouse’s Thomas Ramos.
But Matthis Lebel and Romain Ntamack hit back with tries for Toulouse in the second half and a Melvyn Jaminet penalty put Ugo Mola’s side a point ahead in the 67th minute.
Bordeaux still should have taken the victory, but France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert missed penalties in the 70th and 75th minutes after coming off the bench.
Toulouse back-rower Alban Placines was sent off with three minutes remaining for hitting Antoine Miquel.
But Bordeaux could still not find the three points needed to win, as Maxime Lucu’s 45-meter attempt from the resulting penalty was also off target.
“The coach said at half-time that we would make changes straight away in the second half. It worked,” said Jaminet. “The bad luck of the Bordeaux kickers also did us good.”
On Saturday’s opening day of the season, European Champions Cup winners La Rochelle beat Top 14 champions Montpellier 26-22.
South African Dillyn Leyds scored one of La Rochelle’s two tries, the penalty second two minutes from time securing the intense encounter for Ronan O’Gara’s team, with Antoine Hastoy contributing a conversion and four penalties.
Before the late penalty try Montpellier had the lead with only three minutes left on the clock thanks to Clement Doumenc’s first try for his new club he joined this summer from Carcassonne, with the trusty boot of Louis Carbonel adding the remaining 17 points.
The sin-binning of Bastien Chalureau and Mohamed Haouas did not help Montpellier’s cause.
Earlier, Morgan Parra made his debut for Stade Francais with a 24-18 win over former club Clermont.
After nearly 300 games for Clermont, former France scrum-half Parra begins a fresh chapter with Stade who finished just 11th last season.
But it was a discreet start for the 33-year-old scrum-half with the 71-times capped France player having an injury scare on 50 minutes after he came down clutching his right knee.
Australian international winger Sefanaia Naivalu touched down for the hosts after 28 minutes with new signing Giovanni Habel Kuffner adding a second shortly after the interval.
Stade, the 14-time French champions, showed signs of rustiness despite a successful build-up to the season.
Baptiste Pesenti’s yellow card after 54 minutes allowed Clermont back in the game with two tries from Samuel Ezeala and hooker Yohan Beheregaray.
But Stade fly-half Joris Segonds made the difference with 14 points, including two late penalties in 72nd and 77th minutes.
Stade next meet promoted Bayonne who lost 40-25 despite a gutsy performance at three-time European champions Toulon.
Racing 92 beat last season’s runners-up Castres 25-19 with three tries, two conversions and two penalties.
But coach Laurent Travers was far from happy.
“We need to appreciate the victory in itself because the manner of our performance needs to be better,” he said.
Racing however played without their injured France international Gael Fickou.
Bayonne marked their return to the Top 14 with a try after just three minutes from Teiva Jacquelain, but Toulon pulled away in the second half in a five-try display.
Pau grabbed late 16-14 win in a relentless struggle with visitors Perpignan.
“That is good news,” said Pau coach Sebastien Piqueronies, with his side expected to be fighting to avoid relegation.
“But the bad news is we scraped a win in a small match and only just.”
European Challenge Cup winners Lyon got life under their new coach Xavier Garbajosa off to a positive start with a 31-27 win at Brive.
On Sunday, Toulouse and World Rugby player of the year Antoine Dupont travel to Bordeaux-Begles.