Leigh Halfpenny’s metronomic boot helped Toulon to cruise past Leicester 23-8 and avenge last week’s defeat to the Tigers in the European Champions Cup.
Last year’s Heineken Cup winners saw their nine-match unbeaten run in Europe end at Welford Road last Sunday – in a match that will unfortunately be remembered more for Martin Castrogiovanni’s foul-mouthed rant against Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill afterwards.
But the Top 14 side exacted their revenge in style at a noisy Stade Mayol, with Ali Williams and Mathieu Bastareaud scoring tries, while Halfpenny added a 13-point haul on his return to the side.
Blaine Scully crossed for the Tigers on one of the few occasions Toulon were breached, while stand-off Owen Williams – who kicked 20 points in a fine display when these sides met last week – endured a difficult afternoon as Leicester toiled.
Victory takes Toulon five points clear of Leicester at the top of Pool 3 and they will now be firm favourites to progress after bouncing back to underline their credentials.
Castrogiovanni was left out by Toulon in the wake of his expletive-ridden tirade last week, while Halfpenny returned at full-back for the hosts and Delon Armitage switched out to the wing.
In Pool 5, Northampton hardly broke sweat as they stayed firmly on course to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals by thumping Treviso 67-0 at Franklin’s Gardens.
The Saints, with their juggernaut wing George North in destructive form on his first appearance since being concussed during Wales’ clash against New Zealand three weeks ago, had a bonus point wrapped up inside 35 minutes.
And it proved to be their record European win, smashing a 68-21 success against another Italian side – Overmach Parma – during the 2006-07 season. An early penalty try was followed by a short-range North touchdown before scintillating flowing moves led to scores for scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i and wing Ken Pisi, with two Stephen Myler conversions leaving Pool 5 whipping boys Treviso 24 points adrift at half-time.
North, his leg strapped, went off early in the second period – his departure looked precautionary – but there was no let-up from Northampton as further tries followed for George Pisi, Ben Foden, two more by Ken Pisi and a 13-minute hat-trick for substitute forward Samu Manoa, while Myler finished with four conversions and full-back James Wilson two.
English champions Saints’ 11-try haul took them to 15 points in the group, and victories in their final two pool games next month away to the Ospreys and at home against Racing Metro will guarantee a last-eight place.
Northampton strengthened their quest to retain control of Pool 5 by recalling a number of their international players, including North, plus the England forward trio of Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood.
It was a move that clearly paid off, and the experienced quartet proved far too strong for their Italian adversaries who remain pointless after four games.