Toulon lose French rugby opener

European champions Toulon slumped to a 27-22 home defeat to Racing-Metro on Friday with their former All Blacks back-row forward Chris Masoe scoring the winning try in the Top 14 opener.

Masoe, who left Toulon in the summer after three years, grabbed his side’s decisive try late in the second period when they were trailing 19-17.

Both sides went into the season curtain-raiser stripped of a host of stars who are building up for next month’s World Cup — Toulon were missing 18 players and Racing 11.

Jonathan Pelissie, who was to score 19 of Toulon’s points, kicked two early penalties to Racing’s one through Maxime Machenaud.

Racing were reduced to 14 men when No.8 Antonie Claasen was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on English fullback Delon Armitage.

Toulon pressed home their advantage when Pelissie, set-up by a smart burst from skipper Juan Smith, went over for the season’s first try under the posts.

The scrum-half kicked the extras for a 13-3 lead.

Machenaud and Pelissie again exchanged penalties before Racing scored their first try on the stroke of half-time through centre Henry Chavancy.

Machenaud missed the conversion and Toulon went in at the break 16-11 to the good.

The Racing scrum-half added two quick penalties after the interval to nudge his side into a 17-16 lead before their fightback was thwarted by a second yellow card of the evening.

This time it was South African lock forward Francois van der Merwe who was the culprit when he was sin-binned for a rash punch at the prone Thibaut Lassale.

Pelissie compounded Racing’s indiscipline with another penalty for a 19-17 lead.

Racing lost fly-half Johan Goosen to a shoulder injury just after an hour before Australian centre Mitch Inman, making his Toulon debut, was yellow carded in the 65th minute for repeated indiscretions.

Racing pounced with a mighty shove as flanker Masoe, who left Toulon after the conclusion of last season, was driven over for his side’s second try of the game.

Mechanaud added the extras for 24-19 which soon became 27-19 when he popped over a penalty after a weary Toulon front row were penalised for collapsing a scrum.

Pelissie then hit a penalty wide of the posts with three minutes left before replacement fly-half Willie du Plessis succeeded with another as the clock ticked down to at least ensure the European champions a losing bonus point.

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