Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Argentina Players in the French Top 14 - Round 16
The lattest round of the French national championship - the Top 14 was extremely unpredictable with some surprizing results. There were plenty of players from Argentina on show with an interesting one on one battle between centres Marcelo Bosch and Miguel Avramovic as Biarritz hosted Agen. The same match also provided a battle between the two first choice USA wingers as Taku Ngwenya played 14 for Biarritz and Kevin Swiryn 11 for Agen. The Top 14 will now be paused for two weeks as the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup will take precendence for two weeks to determine the teams entering the playoffs.
The round started on Friday evening as the two teams from central France went head to head with strugglers Brive hosting last seasons champions Clermont and needing a top performance to come out on top. Clermont were missing a number of first choice players to injury but they certainly had more than adequate replacements yet it was Brive who came out on top winning 29-22. After 47 minutes, Brive were well on top with a 23-3 lead before Clermont fought back in an exciting second half. Pumas hooker Mario Ledesma started for Clermont and was replaced in the second half. Canadian international secondrower, Jamie Cudmore missed the match through suspension. Brive had two Argentine players in replacement scrumhalf Agustín Figuerola and prop Pablo Cardinali who both came on in the second half. The teams other Argentine prop, Pablo Henn was left out of the squad for the match.
Fellow Top 14 strugglers, Agen had an equally difficult task as they travelled to the Spanish border town of Biarritz to take on last seasons Heineken Cup finalists on Saturday. Biarritz set a season record in scoring a total of ten tries to win 65-22 as they look forward to their away match vs Ulster in the Heineken Cup this coming saturday. Biarritz dominated from the get go and were leading 34-3 at the interval as they scored five tries, one being scored by the flying American Taku Ngwenya. The home side were not satisfied with their first half effort, however, as they scored five more tries with Ngwenya scoring his second and hooker Benoit August claiming a hat-trick. USA international winger Kevin Swiryn played for Agen as did former Pumas centre Miguel Avramovic. Current Pumas centre, Marcelo Bosch put in a great performance with two linebreaks setting up two of his sides first half tries.
One of the most interesting matches was the bottom of the table battle as Bourgoin played host to the Top 14 debutants La Rochelle on Saturday. The days leading up to this match had been dominated by the LNR´s decision to penalize Bourgoin for their irregular financial situation which saw them deducted of 5 points and virtually condemning the former eternal mid-table side to the second division. La Rochelle were looking for nothing less than a rare away win and surprizingly they got it and did so with ease in a massive 44-14 bonus point victory which sees them leave the relegation zone and go from 13th to 11th ahead of Brive and Agen. Bourgoin had two Argentine players in flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo who converted his teams two tries and replacement centre Matías Viazzo. The winners had two of their own with Andrés Bordoy starting at hooker and then leaving to be replaced by Franco Paní. This match is testiment to the contribution Argentina is having to global rugby as none of these four players have played for Los Pumas.
Midtabled side Bayonne hosted one the impressive Castres in what was one of the best matches of the round as the hosts won the match 25-23 with both teams scoring one try each but the lead changing hands four times in the second half. Bayonne won with a converted try in the 78th minute. Uruguayan international Rodrigo Capó Ortega did not feature for Castres.
Stade Français had a massive home crowd of 83,000 for their match against Top 14 leaders Toulouse in Paris on Saturday. Toulouse fielded a weakened side as they can afford to given they are leading the Top 14 and have two important Heineken Cup matches coming up over the next two weekends. The side was depleted, but like Clermont, was far from being a weak team as replacements were generally strong and packed with French internationals. Stade Français, however, fielded a strong side and put in their best performance of the season as they came out 31-3 winners to collect a bonus point victory after Toulouse had been winning 3-0. Five Argentine players played for the home side with Rodrigo Roncero starting at loosehead prop and Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Italian captain Sergio Parisse were starters in the backrow. Pumas centre Gonzalo Tiesi played inside centre before laving the field with a minor injury and was replaced by Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga. Argentine hooker Alberto Vernet Basualdo continued his recovering from injury as he came on to play the final 20 minutes for Toulouse. Argentine secondrower Patricio Albacete and scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo were both rested.
Montpellier attempted to make it a double as the hosted Perpignan who they had earlier beaten in the season in what was their first ever win in Perpignan. This time, however, it was a tryless match with Perpignan seemingly cruising for victory as they held a 12-6 lead in the 52nd minute through the boot of French international fullback Jerome Porical. Montpellier, however, fought back with all the points going to uncapped Argentine winger Martín Bustos Moyano. He slotted his fourth penalty in the 69th minute which was the last time either side would score in the match. Bustos Moyano was joined in the starting lineup by Pumas centre Santiago Fernández and Pumas prop Juan Figallo who showed his versatility by playing at loosehead prop rather than tighthead. USA international centre Seta Tuilevuka did not play for Montpellier and former Pumas secondrower did not play for Perpignan.
Résumé du match MHRC USAP Janvier 2011
The final match of the round was the only one to be played on Sunday as Paris saw its second high profile match of the weekend with Racing Metro hosting Toulon. A few years ago both teams were in the Pro d2 trying to get into the Top 14 but being defeated by other sides such as Auch and Dax. Today, both have worldclass international players and are amongst the best teams in France. The match, however, was not as good as it should have been as it was a tryless match dominated by dropgoals as Racing Metro pulled off a 15-12 victory. English flyhalf Johnny Wilkinson slotted three first half dropgoals for Toulon as well as a penalty as Toulon led 12-3 at the interval. Racing Metro responded with three penalties of their own after the break with Jonathan Wisniewski kicking two of them. Pumas backrower Álvaro Galindo came on as a secondhalf replacement for Racing Metro and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe captained Toulon. Pumas flyhalf Juan Martín Hernández was on the bench but did not feature for the winners. Prop Juan Orlandi missed the game through injury.
Marcadores: Agustín Figuerola, Argentina, Gonzalo Tiesi, Juan Fernández Lobbe, Juan Figallo, Juan Leguizamón, Juan Orlandi, Marcelo Bosch, Martín Bustos Moyano, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Nicolas Vergallo, Patricio Albacete, Rodrigo Roncero, Santiago Fernández, Top 14, United States