For the record, the title: “French Top 14 For Dummies” was not Pyk’s idea, it’s Management’s.
BAYONNE, FRANCE – For this 16th week of French Top14, the opening game was on Thursday night between Bayonne and Castres. The other games were played on Friday night. Let’s get to it.
Thanks to the home-field advantage, the Basques could take the upper hand over Castres. The win was helped by a try from center Lovobalavu but secured by a conversion and 5 penalties from South African flyhalf Jacques Potgieter (pictured right). The four penalties scored by his fellow Saffa, scrumhalf Rory Kockott, changed nothing. Bayonne 22-12 Castres.
The theme of the week was how the heavyweights were bullied by lesser teams… like Toulouse. Still groggy after their harsh defeat at Leicester last week, Guy Novès’ men found it hard to beat the other Basque team, Biarritz. Despite the benching of their talisman scrummy Yachvili, the Biarrots put up a great fight and despite tactical and technical failures, fought with courage. Julien Peyrelongue (FH for the BO) even scored a try and two penalties! In the end Biarritz could claim an unexpected and most deserved bonus point. Toulouse 19-14 Biarritz.
Continuing with bullied heavyweights, let’s move up the rankings then with Clermont. After another great game in the Heineken Cup, Vern Cotter’s Yellow Army traveled to Perpignan firing on all cylinders. Yet playing at Aimé Giral is always hazardous and Clermont learned that the hard way. A try by lock and new international Romain Taofifenua, together with 6 penalties by Welshman James Hook, set the Catalans up for a very important win. They might indeed be able claim 6th place, the last spot for the playoffs. Clermont, meanwhile, was too undisciplined in the second half to deserve better than a bonus point. USAP 26-19 ASM.
Moving up a notch in the rankings and we’re talking about Toulon. Well, the lesson could surely NOT apply to Toulon this week… hosting Mont-de-Marsan, the latter were definitely bound to leave the Riviera with a nice full valise. [Ahem] What the hell happened to Bernard Laporte’s men?! The starting team was more or less the usual starting 15, yet Toulon was challenged by the worst team in the league. They didn’t score a single point during the second half. Usually they widen the gap with lesser teams with a barrage of tries in the last 30 minutes. More disturbing, they played up two men after consecutive sin bins were given to Stade Montois flanker Vost and center Rabeni at the end of the first half. But let’s credit Mont-de-Marsan. It speaks volumes about the fight they put up. The Montois can leave Mayol with a bonus point, which had the taste of victory for the visitors. Toulon 15-9 Mont-de-Marsan
In Paris, Grenoble apparently lost their power as Stade Français claimed an undisputed bonus point – the only one of the week – with four tries by their back line! That is rare indeed. Two tries were scored by the centers Doumayrou and Turinui, while the wingers Williams and Sinzelle also scored. Stade Français 35 – 6 Grenoble
The other Parisian team, Racing-Métro, was traveling at Bègles. My UBB boys, despite once again leading at half time (9-6), lost. Worse still, their former scrumhalf, Maxime Machenaud, who is now with Les Bleus, almost denied them the bonus point when he scored a penalty with four minutes left. But Camille Lopez scored a penalty right at the hooter to allow Raphaël Ibañez’s team to claim the bonus point. UBB 15-22 Racing-Métro
Bordeaux-Bègles’ competition for relegation, Agen, hosted Montpellier. Thanks to an early try by winger Nagusa and eight points by Bustos-Moyano, Montpellier left Armandie with the win. In fairness, the Agenais were not helped by the red card of their fullback Seymour for a charging Trinh-Duc in the air. But thanks to thanks to three penalties by Barnard, Agen salvaged the day with a bonus point and stayed level with UBB. The upcoming game in Bordeaux between the two will be the most important of the season for both. Agen 9-13 Montpellier.
That’s it, please feel free to comment below.