PARIS, FRANCE – Remember last week when Top 14 leaders were being bullied? Toulouse against Biarritz or Toulon against Mont-de-Marsan, Clermont losing at Perpignan. Surely, this weekend they intended to make up for it, exclaiming: “Daddy’s home!”
After all, they were on the road during those disappointing performances. Certainly, this wouldn’t happen again. Toulon was playing in Bordeaux, Clermont was playing in Paris against Racing-Métro and Toulouse had a short bus trip to Agen (about two hours). One could say this “doublon” – a Top14 weekend with international games at the same time – would benefit the lesser teams. After all, the top teams are the first suppliers of international players for the XV de France. I quite disagree…
Let’s take Toulon, for instance. Granted, they lost Welsh prop Jenkins, French lock Suta, scrum/fly half Michalak, centers Mermoz and Bastareau. 5 players, one would easily admit, is a LOT. But… Jenkins isn’t much of a starter these days, often subbing kiwi Carl Hayman. Further, Michalak was replaced by Nicolas Durand, Mermoz and Bastareau by Matt Giteau and Geoffroy Messina. With Jonny Wilkinson at 10, Hayman and Van Niekerk on the bench, the experienced Bruno and Sherridan in the front row, a second row of Bakkies Botha and Kennedy and a back row of Fernandez Lobbé, Armitage and Gunther… who would have the nerve to call this a B side?!
Why such a long introduction to this game? Because it’s a hard path to support a team fighting to remain in the Top 14. A lot of disappointments, a few satisfactions and a lot of stress all season long. For fans [me] of a team like the UBB, who would fight bravely as usual (against Toulouse, Castres, Clermont…), before letting up in the last minutes, losing and only getting a bonus point – these stacked teams claiming they are weakened is just nonsense.
So, this Saturday in Parc Lescure of Bordeaux – or Stade Jacques Chaban Delmas – 28,000 fans came cheer for their dear UBB. The game was intense from the start but the defences held; Wilkinson missed a penalty from midfield before flyhalf Camille Lopez scored two consecutive penalties at the 15th and 22nd minutes. The UBB was doing great, up 6-0 after 22 minutes. Off a lineout in Toulon’s half, Bordeaux’s jumper threw the ball back in the lineout for scrumhalf Adams, who ran unopposed for 20 meters, before tossing to hooker Avei, who trucked over winger David Smith for a try! Then right before half time, winger Talebula received a beautiful kicked pass from Camille Lopez and set flanker Madaule up for another try! 20-0 at half time! Unbelievable! Yet, us UBB fans were very concerned to see The Toulouse scenario again; Bordeaux was up 19 points with 15 minutes left and lost. Plus, Toulon’s Laporte would yell at his players a fashion now famous in France:
If you can’t understand, no worries. Neither can us Frenchmen.
But even Mssr. Laporte couldn’t stop the UBB to start the 2nd half. At the 47th minute, #8 and captain Matthew Clarkin got a kicked pass from Camille Lopez and trucked over David Smith (poor guy left the field – it was just too much for him) for another try! And Bordeaux kept it up with a marvelous run by Lopez – him again – who passed back inside to fullback Munro for another try. And the scrum got into the fun with by the UBB, subsitute prop Poirot! Final score: UBB 41 – 0 Toulon. No, you’re not dreaming. And I’m sorry for the length of this recap, but it is worth a playoff qualification to me!
Despite their great win, however, Bordeaux is still close to Agen – even if they claimed their 12th rank via the bonus point. Agen? Yes, because Agen beat Toulouse, who were pretty much anywhere but on the field. Agen 22- Toulouse 9.
If Grenoble is very solid at home, they are very bad away. They lost at Mont-de-Marsan, giving the host their first home win this season and even a bonus point ! Mont-de-Marsan 32-14 Grenoble
Road woes also plagued Clermont, who lost in Paris to Racing Métro. In a boring yet physically intense game, the Parisians showed great attitudes and style. They are definitely fighting for the 6th and last playoff spot after tying Grenoble at 42 points – thanks to this bonus point, which was the only point earned by a Top 3 team this weekend! Clermont has a one point lead over Toulouse, 55 to 54 points.
Montpellier swept Biarritz 33-10, while Castres punished Stade Français 44-13…With Bayonne beating Perpignan 13-10, everything is pretty much status quo for the rankings, except for Racing Métro – who are now in a favorable spot to threaten Grenoble for the playoffs qualification. Indeed, every single home team won this weekend. Next weekend our leaders Toulon, Clermont and Toulouse will respectively host Montpellier, Mont-de-Marsan and Perpignan. Stay tuned!
I’m off for some brie, please share your comments below.