PARIS - Clermont took pole position in French rugby's Top 14 yesterday by deposing bitter rivals Toulon 22-16 to take their four-year undefeated home record to 74 matches.
The victory was revenge for their defeat in last season's European Cup final to Toulon as well as the 25-19 loss in the campaign's first league meeting between the two sides.
The result added to Toulon coach Bernard Laporte's blues after he had seen a 13-match ban for a verbal attack on a referee extended to a season-ending 16 games earlier in the day.
Clermont raced into a 13-0 lead at their Stade Marcel-Michelin fortress inside the first 20 minutes after two successful penalties from recalled halfback Morgan Parra who scored 17 points.
The 2010 champions then grabbed the only try of the first period on the 18-minute mark after they had snaffled turnover ball.
Experienced centre Aurelien Rougerie quickly recycled to Napolioni Nalaga and the Fijian winger sprinted from the halfway line to score under the posts with Parra converting.
Former French national coach Laporte appealed his initial punishment, but the European champions said on Friday the French Rugby Federation (FFR) decided to add three more weeks to his suspension.
The ban, which covers referee and player dressing room areas, will end on June 3.
Laporte found himself in the dock after seeing red at referee Laurent Cardona following Toulon's 22-21 loss to Grenoble on January 4.