PARIS, FRANCE – All Saints Day is a holiday. Which is why the Ligue Nationale de Rugby decided to hold this Rugby Day on a Thursday.
Biarritz at Grenoble: This wasn’t the best game of the day, but both teams combatted for the ball and made for some great tries. The promoted team came in undefeated at its Lesdiguières Stadium while the Biarrots wanted to avoid losing a sixth game in a row. But Biarritz was dominated in all the static phases and was driven backwards on all the contested plays. Grenoble turned this domination into points by fly-half fly-half Matthieu Pélissier, subbing for Valentin Courrent, who had to leave after scoring a try as his hooker inadvertently kicked him in his face).
Yet, Biarritz was game. While Grenoble’s pack was looking for a penalty, scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues snatched the ball near Sean Sowerbie’s feet and set up Argentinian Marcello Boschfor a try.
American winger Takudzwa Ngwenya also scored for Biarritz, but it was too late… even for a bonus point.
Grenoble now ranks 6th after 10 weeks and can’t be called “a surprise” any longer. Indeed, Fabrice Landreau’s squad are now fighting for a playoff seed.
Grenoble 34 – 21 Biarritz Olympique
Racing-Métro at Toulouse: It was an orgy of talent and internationals who will play next weekend for the fall test matches. Established French players like wingers Vincent Clerc & Yoann Huget, flanker Yannick Nyanga, center Florian Fritz for Toulouse and hooker Dimitri Szwarzeski for Racing and newcomers scrum-half Maxime Machenaud (Racing) and inside center Gaël Fickou (Toulouse) played. There were also Argentinians; fly-half Juan Hernandez and winger Juan Jose Imhoff (Racing) and lock Patricio Albacete (Toulouse). Former internationals like Luke MacAllister, Luke Burgess (Toulouse), Cronje and Van der Merv (Racing) added to the star parade. But with such talent comes high expectations, and the players did not disappoint. Gaël Fickou scored quickly into the 2nd half, confirming the international buzz… For the last 20 minutes the teams fought over the bonus point – a defensive one for Racing and the offensive one for Toulouse. The final score doesn’t reflect the great efforts from Racing-Metro. Hats off to Toulouse.
Stade Toulousain 32 – 13 Racing-Métro
Clermont at Agen: After losing for the first time in their history against Castres at home, Agen was hosting the 2nd team, Clermont. The first half was forgettable, as even the broadcast team himself confessed there was hardly anything of note. Fortunately the second half opened on a try by former All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu, after a scrum on the 5-meter line. Off a lineout, Sivivatu penetrated Agen’s defence and fullback Jean-Marcellin Buttin finished his work with a try. And not much later… Sivivatu… again!!! Returning a kick, he set up returning Fijian Napolioni Nalaga. The Jaunards lost the bonus point to a late try by fullback Lamoulie.
SU Agen 11 – 18 AS Clermont-Auvergne.
Union Bordeaux-Bègles at Bayonne: After being crushed at Toulon 59-0 last week, Bayonne was hosting the Union Bordeaux-Bègles in a capital game for the relegation battle. The tension was high as both teams desperately need points to keep hope alive. Winger Talebula put The Bordelais on the board first with a try. But Bayonne benefited from numerous penalties to take a lead 15-11. Fulback Spedding’s try sealed the win and prevented the Bordelais from collecting a bonus point.
Aviron Bayonnais 22 – 11 Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Mont-de-Marsan at Montpellier: This was supposed to be an easy win with the bonus point for former Argentinian hooker Mario Ledesma and former French scrum-half Fabien Galthié‘s men. Winger Yann Artero scored two tries in the first half, the second one scored while Mont-de-Marsan’s hooker Caudullo had just been sent off. Nagusa, who was playing outside center, scored two tries in the second half, one off of an intercepted pass and the another one after a countered punt in MdM’s try zone. It was an easy home win for Montpellier, who alternated its French internationals Ouedraogo and Trinh-Duc.
Montpellier 32 – 16 Stade Montois
Perpignan at Castres: This match had promise as both teams had great wins last week at Agen and against Racing-Metro, respectively. Lots of tries were scored and new international – fullback Brice Dulin – set up two of them for Castres (for hooker Brice Mach & scrumhalf Rory Kockott). But Perpignan put up a great fight, and scored three tries as well, two by winger Plante, one by outside center David Marty. It was then a duel between kickers, and Rory Kockott gave the victory to Castres.
Castres 38 – 36 Perpignan.
Stade Français at Toulon: To be honest, people were wondering “à quelle sauce” Toulon would choose when they ate Paris… Toulon simply mashed Bayonne last week, but and Paris won against Toulouse. And Stade Français resisted heroically and earned a bonus point for their efforts. Sir Jonny Wilkinson scored the 24 points for Toulon but Paris succeeded in what no other teams had so far this season: they scored a try in Stade Félix Mayol. Winger Hugo Bonneval had that honor.
Toulon 24 – 19 Stade Français
That’s this review… There’s an interesting rugby week next weekend with Top 14 and Test matches at the same time. Tune in here for all the action.