A full round of seven Top 14 matches took place over the weekend and with only five rounds to go there were some very important results with teams in danger of relegation having mixed results and teams in contention for the play-offs again swapping places on the ladder. As always there were plenty of players from the Americas in action with every game featuring international players from one or more of Argentina, Canada, the USA and Uruguay.
The round started on Friday with Perpignan hosting Bayonne at the Aime Giral stadium. Both sides remain in contention for a place in the play-off´s but both entered the match outside of the Top 6 and sat in seventh and ninth positions on the ladder. A win for Bayonne could have seen the side enter the Top 6 depending on other results and would have seen Perpignan all but have no further chance of making the play-off´s. Perpignan´s 25-19 victory means both sides sit on equal points on the ladder and both remain in contention for a place in the play-off´s but both are three points behind sixth placed Montpellier. Former Pumas international secondrower, Rimas Alvarez started for the Catalans and played until being replace in the 51st minute.
Castres have been a surprize package this season as the player roster is certainly not as good as sides behind them on the ladder and the team is yet to lose a home match. They hosted 2010 French champions, Clermont on Saturday who fielded a weakend side with players missing for Six Nations duty and others simply given the match off. This worked to the advantage of Castres who picked up a 23-19 victory to move into third place. Canadian international secondrower, Jamie Cudmore started for Clermont but had to leave the field early in the first half after getting injured. Pumas frontrowers Mario Ledesma and Martín Scelzo were amongst the Clermont players rested for this match while Argentina born Italian international centre, Gonzalo Canale, was busy making history for Italy in the country´s first ever victory over France.
Toulouse were seriously depleted due to the Six Nations and as such Brive had a great opportunity to secure a rare victory over Toulouse. They almost came close but in the end picked up a bonus point in losing 23-22. Pumas scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo missed the game through injury and is likely to be back only in April and his international replacement, Agustín Figuerola, was left out of the match day squad for Brive. Toulouse counted again on the services of Argentina international secondrower Patricio Albacete who played the full 80 minutes. Pumas hooker, Alberto Vernet Basualdo returned from injury to start at hooker for Toulouse and played 50 minutes before being replaced. Former Argentina international tighthead prop, Pablo Cardinali was on the bench for Brive. The result of the match sees Toulouse move clear of the pack in first position and sees Brive drop into 13th place and thus face relegation.
Second placed Racing Metro fielded a weakend side for their away clash vs Biarritz also on Saturday. Both sides were missing players to international duty with France vs Italy involving international players frin both teams. Racing were also without Juan Martín Hernández whose season was ended last weekend due to injury. In a high scoring encounter, Biarritz pulled off an important 36-32 victory to move into 5th place in the Top 14. Argentine international centre, Marcelo Bosch scored a second half try for Biarritz and was joined in the second half by former Pumas international frontrower Eusebio Guiñazu. Pumas international backrower Alvaro Galindo started in the backrow for Racing Metro and former Pumas international tighthead prop Juan Pablo Orlandi returned from injury to take his place on the bench and he entered in the final minutes of the match. USA international winger Taku Ngwenya started on the right wing for Biarritz.
Stade Français returned to winning ways with a 22-18 victory over Agen in Paris on Saturday. The win sees the Parisians get valuable ponits but they continue to sit in tenth position and trail sixth placed Montpellier by nine points. For Agen the loss sees them fall behind La Rochelle and means the fight to avoid 13th place continues to be a three way battle with Agen, Brive and La Rochelle all needing to win matches. Argentina international backrower Juan Manuel Leguizamon started at 8 for Stade Français but left in the final minute of play with ann injury. He was joined by fellow Argentina international players Rodrigo Roncero and Pedro Ledesma who both started in the front row. Pumas fullback, Martín Rodriguez Gurruchaga was on the bench. Pumas backrower, Alejandro Campos and USA international winger, Kevin Swiryn were both left out of the team for Agen.
Toulon hosted bototm of the table Bourgoin and had few problems in scoring a bonus point victory. Felipe Contepomi organized play well from flyhalf and he kicked three conversions and one penalty. Uncapped Argentine centre, Matías Viazzo kicked one penalty and one conversion for Bourgoin. The 39-17 win sees Toulon sit in seventh place, one point behind Montpellier and only one win behind third placed Castres who Toulon will host in their next Top 14 match on Friday April 25. Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe should be back from injury in time for the match vs Castres.
An upset took place on the French Atlantic coast as La Rochelle scored an important 20-16 home victory over French Mediterranean side Montpellier. The visiting side fielded a weakend side for the match and it proved to be a fatal error as La Rochelle were able to win which to them is vital so that they can avoid relegation back to the Pro d2. Amongst the players rested for the clash were the goalkicking ace, Martín Bustos Moyano who was left out of the match day squad altogether as was USA international centre Seta Tuilevuka. Pumas centre Santiago Fernández was on the bench and came on in the 5th minute. A further sign of the contribution of the Americas to global rugby was apparent as uncapped Argentine frontrower, Franco Pani started for La Rochelle. The win sees La Rochelle rise into eleventh place on the ladder and Montpellier drop to sixth.
Top 14 Ladder
1 Toulouse 69
2 Racing-Métro 63
3 Castres 59
4 Clermont 58
5 Biarritz 58
6 Montpellier 57
7 Toulon 55
8 Bayonne 54
9 Perpignan 54
10 Stade Français 48
11 La Rochelle 34
12 Agen 34
13 Brive 32
14 Bourgoin 5