For the record, the title: “French Top 14 For [American] Dummies” was not Frenchman Pyk’s idea, it’s Management’s.
GRENOBLE, FRANCE – Our favorite players treated us with high regard in this first week of Top 14 in 2013. They started the new year with a bang. Let’s get to it.
Friday night’s match between Biarritz and Agen at Parc Des Sports D’Aguilera was most definitely a game for forwards. First, Agen’s 8-man Ueleni Fono could not be stopped from 5m for a try. Then, ten minutes before halftime, Biarrtiz hooker Héguy could retaliated. Julien Peyrelongue did the rest with a conversion and three penalties. Yet despite another defeat, Agen comes back from the Basque Country with a very important bonus point. Biarritz Olympique 16-11 Agen P.s… Yes, Biarritz can win without Dimitri Yachvili.
Saturday afternoon, Clermont hosted Montpellier in a brilliantly played game. Right from the kickoff, Montpellier sent a message to the Yellow Army: we didn’t come here to be eaten alive! And that they were not! After great pressure from Galthié’s men, Argentinian prop Bustos scored after a pick and go. Ten minutes later, Fofana scored to tie the game after a beautiful work by his teammates. The turning point came shortly after halftime: while trailing 20-13 Montpellier’s flanker Alexandre Bias dropped the ball on the line for an easy try. 5 minutes and two penalties later, the score was 26-13. Montpellier resisted but their scrum got crushed, generating a penalty try. Clermont 36-18 Montpellier
After losing heavily last weekend, both Paris (Stade Francais) and Bayonne had to show their fans a better effort. “We can’t end up lower“, stated Parisian captain Pascal Papé. Well, would you call “lower” c losing at home against weak Bayonne. Weak? well not that much. 6 minutes into the game, flanker Haare scored a magnificent try after running over Parisian fullback Jérôme Porical. Unfortunately for the Basques, Porical wasn’t knocked out by Haare and scored seven penalties. His team won, denying Bayonne the bonus point in the process.
Stade Français 21-13 Bayonne
Grenoble was playing their third home game in a row. After visiting Toulouse & Bordeaux-Bègles, they were hosting another team from the Southwest – and not the least of them – Castres. In a harsh game, Grenoble took the upper hand and securized the win. Very disappointed, Castres winger Andreu declared “twice I luckily scored (once against Toulouse last week, once against Grenoble), and twice we lost. I’d rather not score and win the games…”
Grenoble 14-12 Castres
Perpignan hosted Bordeaux-Bègles at Aimé Giral, withboth teams in dire need of points. I’m gonna kill the suspense right here: Yes, Sanchez missed a decisive penalty… again. This guy is killing me! Despite this, and thanks to an AMAZING try scored by Talebula after an 80m run, Bègles was leading 16-14 ten minutes from the end. But again, they lost in the end. They even blew the bonus point after an incredible mistake by the backline that allowed Perpignan to score. Bordeaux fans could really cry…
Perpignan 26-Bordeaux 16
Go to the 3:24 mark in this to see the try:
It was a very difficult win for Toulouse at Stade Guy and André Boniface of Mont-de-Marsan. Yet a win is a win (is a win). Mont-de-Marsan fought bravely and claimed a bonus point “which is a bit like a victory,” said Marc Dantin, coach for the Stade Montois.
Last but not least, the Sunday Night Rugby game featured Toulon vs Racing-Métro. Toulon haven’t lost a game home since September 2011 and their wins this year were impressive. Pretty much everyone but Paris went home with a nice suitcase (see last week’s summary for explanations) after playing here. So when Racing came in , no one really thought they could win… except the Racingmen. Maybe Toulon finds it hard against teams from the capital? Anyway, Racing was very focused on defence, extremely realistic on offense and the “Ciel et Blanc” were simply not as easy to beat as Toulon thought. There were great performances from center Estebanez, who set up Chavancy for a try after he broke tackles from Bastaraud, Gitteau, David Smith and Durand! Argentinian Imhoff and Hernandez, eventually coming back to his 2007 level, also had a great night. Captain Dimitri Swarzeski was awesome as well. Sir Jonny Wilkinson delivered an almost perfect game, failing to score an additional penalty which would have resulted in his 1000th point with Toulon in Top 14… In the end though, the Racingmen wanted it more and Toulon committed too many handling mistakes to deserve better. Toulon 15-19 Racing.
RANKINGS: Nothing changes on top: Toulon (57 points) despite the defeat remains first ahead of Clermont (53) and Toulouse (50). Castres (44) is two points ahead of Grenoble (42), who climbed on the fifth rank for the first time. Fabrice Landreau, coach for the Grenoblois, told his players after the game, “you guys are monsters! continue with this motivation, and we’ll get the qualification”. I bet they will. Behind Grenoble, Montpellier (41) is followed by Biarritz (36), Perpignan and Racing (34 each). 10th and 11th are Stade Français and Agen with respectively 32 and 26 points. Agen (18) comes out of the red zone, to the benefit of point difference, and Bordeaux sinks in (18). Last, and least, Mont-de-Marsan (8).
That is it for now. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats and @Mathew Drew Turner, respectively.