Cheslin Kolbe’s debut for French strugglers Toulon ends in defeat

Despite failing to inspire Toulon to victory in his Top 14 debut against Stade Francais on Sunday, captain Baptiste Serin said Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe brings “serenity to the team.”

Injury and Covid-19 postponements delayed Kolbe’s league debut under his new colors.

In August, the 28-year-old moved from Toulouse for a reported €1.8 million.

Toulon remains in 13th position, a relegation playoff slot, despite having three games in hand on Perpignan, who is in 12th place. The victory moved the home team up to tenth place.

Cheslin Kolbe, 28, started behind a pack which included former Parisian Sergio Parisse as the 38-year-old seeks to prove his fitness over the next three weeks before a potential Test return with Italy in the upcoming Six Nations.

Kolbe had played for Toulon in December 17’s European Challenge Cup win over Zebre Parma.

“He’s a guy who plays right, he brings a lot of serenity to the team. Cheslin’s only played two matches, we have to be patient with Cheslin,” Serin told reporters.

“We know his ability with one-on-ones, he won all of them tonight. I found him serious,” he added.

By the time the Rugby World Cup winner got his first touch in the league his team already trailed after home flyhalf Joris Segonds kicked a second-minute penalty.

Cheslin Kolbe was peppered with high kicks

The visitors responded with two tries. After 11 minutes Kolbe’s fellow back-three player and Tokyo 2020 gold medallist scored his first try for Toulon.

Segonds peppered Cheslin Kolbe with kicks. The fullback responded by setting up Toulon’s second try just after the quarter. His goose-step took him outside his defender before he fed Aymeric Luc who found Baptiste Serin with an inside pass for the scrumhalf to score. Louis Carbonel kicked the conversion to make it 14-3.

Stade hit back as Samoan prop Moses Alo-Emile claimed his first try for the club. Segonds slotted the extras after half an hour.

Carbonel kicked a penalty with five minutes left of the half and the away side led 17-10 at the break.

No 8 Parisse was replaced with 25 minutes remaining and was applauded off the field in the capital city, where he spent 14 seasons with Stade. He is expected to retire at the end of the campaign.

Segonds closed the gap to four points with 18 minutes left with a penalty before being replaced by Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez.

With a quarter of an hour to play Stade Francais re-took the lead as club veteran Antoine Burban crashed over.

Sanchez succeeded with the conversion and then with two later penalties as the home side had a 26-17 advantage going into the final five minutes.

Toulon pressed for a try to claim a bonus point and Serin turned the provider three minutes into added time to set-up Dorian Laborde.

Earlier, Pau beat Clermont 28-20 and on Saturday Racing overcame Toulouse 20-15 at the champions’ backyard as the likes of France’s world player of the year Antoine Dupont and Les Bleus flyhalf Romain Ntamack made their return from Covid-19 a week out from the start of the Six Nations.