Toulon climbed to third in the Top 14 as Eric Escande kicked them to a 23-16 success over struggling Stade Francais on Sunday.

Last season's champions Stade Francais - without Laurent Sempere and Paul Gabrillagues due to suspensions for eye gouging - have failed to recapture their form in 2015-1, and sit 11th in the table after the defeat at Stade Mayol.

The visitors were briefly 16-14 ahead midway through the second half, but the trusty boot of Escande saw Toulon move to within three points of leading duo Racing 92 and Toulouse.

After Morne Steyn had got Stade Francais on the board with a fourth-minute penalty, Toulon hit back as Ma'a Nonu fed Bryan Habana, who had the simple task of going over near the left corner.

Two subsequent Escande penalties - sandwiching one from Steyn - saw Toulon go into the break 11-6 to the good and another kick from Escande extended the advantage soon after the restart.

However, Stade Francais got their noses in front as Steyn followed up a successful penalty by touching down under the posts after Waisea Nayacalevu had intercepted and run most of the length of the field before brilliantly finding the South African.

Steyn's conversion moved Stade Francais into a narrow lead, but it was one they could not hold as a lack of discipline led to three penalties in six minutes, all of which Escande knocked through the posts as Toulon prevailed.