CASTRES, FRANCE – This week’s opener featured the mighty Clermont at Castres. It is never an easy trip to Stade Pierre Antoine and Les Jaunards know that well. For the past 36 years, they haven’t come back from Castres with a win.
This time, however, Vern Cotter had the small but wonderful Brock James start at fly-half. To quote the French sports newspaper L’Equipe, the first half was “…unworthy of last year’s semi-finalists.” Yet, the second half was a different story. Castres played some good rugby and almost scored a try… almost. Fulback Jean-Marcellin Buttin intercepted a sure try for a 100 meter run. Castres came back after South African #8 Claassen started behind the scrum and fellow South African, scrum-half Rory Kockott, picked up to score the try. That somewhat redeemed Kockott’s 5 missed kicks on 7 attempts. Infamous fullback Romain Teulet then took over the kicking and made the conversion and another penalty five minutes from the end. That was the first time that Castres actually took the lead. Clermont may rightfully hold a grudge for Robocop, so-called for his penatly kicking style. Teulet scored over 3,000 points in Top 14 over his career…. Chapeau! As for les Clermontois, they’ll have to wait for another year to get a chance to end this miserable streak. Castres Olympique 16 – 13 AS Clermont Auvergne
Speaking of miserable streaks, what can be more miserable than those of Stade Français Paris and Stade Montois? The former hasn’t won a game away from Paris since Nov, 25th 2011, while the latter still hasn’t earned as much as a defence bonus point…in seven games! But when the hooter ended this rather forgettable match, both streaks were over. Paris claimed the win one the foot of fullback Jerome Porical, who made 8 of his 9 penalty attempts. Mont-de-Marsan, meanwhile, left the field with a bonus point. Mont-de-Marsan 28 – 30 Stade Français
With three defeats in a row for Biarritz, and four victories away for Toulon (before last week’s defeat at Toulouse), both teams needed a great game to end or restart their respective streaks. Unlike last week, Toulon travelled with a complete A-side. Biarritz played some great rugby, bolstered by the on-fire Takudza N’gwenya. After a poor start and an awful knock-on, the Team USA winger showed his greatness. Unfortunately for Biarritz, even the best rugby does’t matter if you don’t score. In the first half, English flanker Steffon Armitage scored an amazing try for Toulon. Off a lineout on the 50-meter line, flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson to Matt Giteau, who passed back inside to winger David Smith. Smith broke the line and passed inside to Armitage, who smashed through both Biarritz wingers for the try. It was awesome. Biarritz could do little to prevent Toulon’s swarm, who also claimed the bonus point after two more tries. Biarritz Olympique 9 – 36 R.C. Toulon.
Another interesting streak: Grenoble’s 18 undefeated home games – which was started last season in Pro D2. Still, it is not an easy thing to play at Stade Lesdiguières. USA Perpignan can testify to that, as they were defeated there once more. Simpy put, Grenoble plays awesome rugby. This team fears nothing – their amazing comeback showed that. On their own 22 with 3 minutes left and down 2, they covered the whole field for an exhilirating try. Grenoble 28 – 23 Perpignan.
In the Parisian rain, Racing Métro 92 and Montpellier did their best to play some rugby… to no avail. The game’s only try came when Montpellier 2nd row Bias countered a kick from unfortunate winger Benjamin Fall. For the unlucky Fall, it was just his first game back from injured list. Scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who is likely to claim a spot in Philippe Saint Andre’s squad for the fall tests, scored all the Racingmen’s points. His counterpart, Benoît Paillaugue, scored remaining points for Montpellier. Racing Métro 12 – 16 Montpellier.
Last but not least, Toulouse played at Bordeaux-Bègles. We at Bordeaux-Bègles (I used to play there) know how to host – especially a team like Stade Toulousain. At the Parc Lescure – Bordeaux’s soccer team’s home – the UBB played solid rugby. Incredibly, locals were leading 29-10 with twenty minutes left. Unfortunately, Toulouse came back and won on a penalty try. The penalty try was in my opinion COMPLETELY unjustified, but as my friend Michael Hickey has witnessed, being a sore loser is part of being French. Anyway, I’m looking forward to my friends Flo Bernodat (Happy Birthday, btw;) and Peter Butterfly’s weighin in on this. Union Bordeaux-Bègles 32- 34 Stade Toulousain.
No TOP 14 next week, as the Heineken Cup is starting! But 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. Merci.