Stade Francais shrugged off the absence of a host of Six Nations stars to clinch a bonus point 32-6 win over champions Castres and take the Top 14 lead in France on Friday.
Stade ran in three tries — all in the second half — after South Africa stars Morne Steyn and Rory Kockott had kicked all the points in the first half, with Stade ahead at 12-6.
Fiji winger Waisea Vuidravuwalu scored two of Stade’s tries in the space of seven second-half minutes as his team went two points clear of Clermont at the top of the table.
Steyn, getting a start in the Stade lineup after Jules Plisson became one of Stade’s six players on Six Nations training duty this week, succeeded with his first two penalties for a 6-0 lead.
His fellow South African, Kockott, cut the lead with a penalty of his own.
As the errors piled up, Steyn missed the target, while Kockott saw his second pot at goal come back off the upright.
Steyn succeeded with a 30m effort and exchanged successful kicks with Kockott as Stade led 12-6 at the interval, with Castres paying a heavy price for conceding a total of eight penalties.
Steyn missed a 40m penalty early in the second half, before Stade’s US lock Scott LaValla had a try ruled out for a double movement as he struggled over the Castres line.
However, the Paris giants did deservedly grab the opening try moments later when French winger Julien Arias finished off a move involving Hugo Bonneval and South African center Meyer Bosman.
That gave Stade a 17-6 lead and although Steyn missed the conversion, he was successful with another penalty when Castres’ Kiwi import Karena Wihongi was yellow-carded.
Castres wilted and Vuidravuwalu seized his opportunity to grab two quick tries to send Stade back to the top.