EARVIN N’Gapeth, the man who powered France’s dream team to the Tokyo Olympics men’s volleyball gold medal, has long been looking forward to play in front of his avid Filipino fans.

And the enigmatic Olympic Most Valuable Player (MVP) made sure he leaves a lasting impression.

The 31-year-old Paykan Tehran VC star was scintillating in his Philippine debut as he helped lift the World No. 3 to an emphatic 25-14, 25-23, 25-13 destruction of the Netherlands on Thursday to zoom to the top in the Volleyball Nations League in Week 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“I received a lot of message from Filipino people. It’s so cool to be here to play volleyball here,” said Mr. N’Gapeth. “I hope we will make two good games for the fans. This is for the fans here in the Philippines.”

It was a win that pushed the Roosters straight to the top with 15 points on five wins in six outings.

It included a forfeiture victory over China, which could not play in their scheduled duel the day before due to issues related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Powerhouse United States was currently at No. 2 with 14 points while Japan at No. 3 13.

Mr. N’Gapeth did most of everything — from scoring (eight points) to defending (five receptions and four digs) and to orchestrating plays that helped fuel the spiking machine that is France.

It resulted to Stephen Boyer, Barthelemy Chinenyeze, Trevor Clevenot and Nicolas Le Goff getting off with strong performances and finished with 15, 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Orange Tulips though put up a strong fight and could have snatched the second set and perhaps changed the game’s complexion a bit when they raced to set point, 24-21.

It wasn’t meant to be though as the Dutch slipped to No. 6 with nine points.

“In the second set, we just found a way to come back and win the set,” said Mr. Boyer.

Mr. N’Gapeth’s fans will have a chance to showcase more of his tremendous talent as the French battles the Japanese on Saturday and the Germans in the final day on Sunday.

Meanwhile, China won via forfeiture after Germany refused to play even though the Chinese have already cleared health protocols after forfeiting their game versus the French on Wednesday due to COVID-19.

China improved to 10th with six points while Germany dropped to seventh with seven points.

PLDT is a presenting partner while The STAR, Quezon City headed by Mayor Joy Belmonte, Maynilad, Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee are among those backing this ultra-competitive 16-country event. — Joey Villar