GRENOBLE, FRANCE – Here in France, we hate English rugby. For decades they beat us and the French teams often left the field with the frustrating feeling of missed opportunities: How the hell did they beat us? We had possession, the better chances… Still, they won. Well, in this this 7th week of the Top 14 Rugby, we saw quite a bit of wins à l’anglaise. The ingredients? A lot of physicality – especially with the backs, a bit of rain, surgical kicking, a bit of luck and…. extreme realism.
First Act: Agen Lot & Garonne vs Bordeaux-Bègles.
As both teams fight to remain in the Top14, this was a game of crucial importance. Despite their efforts, the Bordelais, coached by former international hooker Raphaël Ibañez left Armandie with only a bonus point. The Agenais, coached by former selection record holder and center Philippe Sella, were helped by an unlikely move: The heel of BB’s prop Delboubès hit the ball during a play, facilitating a lucky pass to Agen’s center Robinson. Agen 19 – BB 15.
Second Act: Clermont vs Stade Français.
The facts: Clermont hasn’t lost a game at Marcel Michelin (yes, the tire people) in almost three years (last defeat against Biarritz on Nov. 21th 2009). For the Parisians, it is quite the opposite. They haven’t won a game away since Nov. 25th 2011 at Perpignan. What’s more, the Parisians showed up with an inexperienced team. So… this was to be a game without suspense, surprises and really not worth watching, oui? … NON! 40 seconds in the game, the Parisians almost scored a try by Fijian winger Waisea Vuidravuwalu. On the following phase, scrummy Fillol passed to his fly-half Warwick for the first try of the evening.
Indeed, the Yellow Army struggle through the first half. Vuidravuwalu scored two other tries for Stade Français after amazing runs. Later on, he prevented a try from international center Wesley Fofana, and was definitely the day’s revelation. At halftime and against all odds, Paris was leading with a comfortable 22-10. But ASM coach Vern Cotter then changed his fly-half, subbing the amazing Brock James for a dazed David Skrela. The former scored two decisive drop-goals, including the winning one on the gong. And there’s how you lose a game after having scored two more tries than your opponent… ASM 28- 25 Stade Français.
Third Act: Toulouse vs Toulon.
Without their English maestro Jonny Wilkinson, the Toulonnais were not efficient and trailed 19-3 at the half despite spending much of the half inside the opponent’s 22. In the end it was to be an obvious victory for Toulouse because – as we said last week – this was basically a Toulon “B” side. Kiwi flyhalf Luke MacAllister was once again superb, scoring a scintillating try on his own – helped by a weak tackle attempt from his Toulon counterpart Frédéric Michalak. The bottom line is that the Rouges et Noirs (the ones from Stade Toulousain) served notice to those who foolishly believed they would not be a team to count on this year. Toulon remains leader, however, despite not getting the bonus point and suffering their first loss. Stade Toulousain 32 – 9 Toulon.
As for the rest of Saturday’s matches… Rain, rain and rain… It was definitely a day NOT to remember. Unfortunately, the rain took away the will of most to play solid rugby… Perpignan painfully won against Stade Montois 15 to 6. Mont-de-Marsan still hasn’t even gotten a defence bonus point after 7 games, and unless there’s a miracle in the works, they will in the lower division next year… Montpellier (yes, it’s spelled with TWO Ls) was hosting Castres who lost heavily in Toulon last week. In a game of a little interest, Montpellier had a great come back. French fly-half François Trinh-Duc had a great game, kicking a dangerous up-and-under in Castres Olympique’s in-goal for a lucky try. Montpellier 19 – 12 Castres… The last match of the day had Racing-Métro at Grenoble. The promoted team had been the surprise so far and to be honest, plays some of the league’s more pleasing rugby. Their latest victims were the Parisians, who could only take away the bonus point from their opponent. Grenoble 27 – 13 Racing-Métro.
Basque Derby: This one, between Biarritz and Bayonne, went as expected; it was tough, with play dominated by the forwards and… boring. Unfortunately, Harinordoquy’s father did not take part in a brawl, as he did during last year’s punch-up. It was, however, a massive upset. Bayonne scored a penalty in the extra-time and won – against all odds – in Biarritz. Biarritz Olympique 15 – 16 Aviron Bayonnais
Punching Pere Harinordoquy enters at 00:40 mark
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