Tuesday, March 8, 2011

French Top 14 - Round 20

Yet another weekend of top level matches took place in France´s Top 14 with players from the Americas who will play for Argentina, Canada and the United States all in action. Argentina had players involved in every match with an uncapped player from Córdoba scoring 20 points for Montpellier in the teams 25-24 victory over Agen. There were also seasoned veterans on display as Argentine players continue to mix it with the best and show just why Los Pumas are one of the best international teams on the planet. The contribution to the global game from the Americas is huge and the region should no longer be overlooked as the IRB should back Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2023.

Round 20 started in central France with Clermont playing host to Toulon in Friday´s only match. Clermont welcomed back its French international players who put in strong performances in knocking over the visitors 19-12. Clermont´s sole try went to French international backrower Julien Bonnaire who picked up a chip kick frmo French international centre Aurelin Rougerie. Argentina born Italian international centre Gonzalo Canale partnered Rougerie in the centres as he too was released for club duty by Italian coach Nick Mallet. 37 yeard old Argentina international, Mario Ledesma started at hooker for Clermont and played until the 53rd minute. His international captain, Felipe Contepomi continued his return from injury and played the full 80 minutes at flyhalf for Toulon.

Bottom of the table, Bourgoin are bound for the second division after picking up yet another loss this time at home to Paris based side Racing Metro on Saturday. The Parisians were hardly troubled and were able to win without getting out of third gear as they conformed themselves as second on the Top 14 ladder with a 38-19 victory. El Mago, Juan Martín Hernández started at inside centre for Racing Metro but had to leave the field in the 29th minute after hurting his right knee in a tackle. Hernández was tackled high and as he fell his weight buckled and his knee was bent backwards. The injury was confirmed on Sunday as being serious and has ended Hernández´s season. He is out for six months and could well, tragically, miss the World Cup. This is the third injury in 18 months and the second serious one involving 6 or more months out of rugby. Hernández was joined in the starting lineup by Pumas international backrower, Alvaro Galindo who played 67 minutes for the winners. Uncapped Argentine centre,  Matías Viazzo played for Bourgoin and kicked a conversion after coming off the bench in the second half. The match took place in Grenoble.

The most exciting match of the round took place in Biarritz as the enterprising side hosted the new boys in the Top 14, La Rochelle for the first ever Top 14 clash between the two sides in Biarritz. The home side were in cruise control after going ahead 27-11 at half time with three tries including one to USA international winger Taku Ngwenya and Argentina international centre Marcelo Bosch - both players certain to feature at this years Rugby World Cup. La Rochelle fought back superbly to almost win the game as Biarritz held them, off to win 32-30. The win sees Biarritz remain in the play-offs zone and gives La Rochelle a bonus point which could be important to their chances of remaining in the Top 14. Uncapped Argentina hooker, Franco Pani played for La Rochelle.

Former giants Stade Français continued to look a shadow of their former selves as they again failed to score tries as the Paris club hosted Perpignan and went down 21-9. The loss looks to have seriously dented Stade Français´ chances of mkaing the play-offs and qualifying for next seasons Heineken Cup. The problem that has been highly visible all season was again clear to see as Stade Français´ lack if a quality flyhalf and quality wingers again let them down. Retired Pumas international secondrower, Rimas Alvarez played for the winners  in possibly his last match ever in Paris. Stade Français had four players from Argentina in the starting XV with Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga playing fullback, Rodrigo Roncero, Juan Leguizamón backrow and Italian captain Sergio Parisse also starting in the backrow.

An important result took place in Brive as visitors Castres secured an extremely rare away win in defeating Brive 20-12 which was consequently saw Castres remain in the Top 6 and also meant that Brive picked up no bonus point. Despite not being at Rugby World Cup 2011 or 2007, Uruguay are still a country with quality players and the teams best player, Rodrigo Capó Ortega was on the bench for Castres. His country continues to recieve unfair treatment from the IRB who have funded programs and teams ranked lower than the South Americans. The future of rugby in the country depends greatly on neighbours, Argentina which is yet another reason for Argentina to host Rugby World Cup 2023. Brive had two Argentine players in former international prop Pablo Cardinali who started at tighthead prop and current international scrumhalf, Agustín Figuerola who was on the bench.

The shock of the round took place outside of France as Bayonne moved their home clash vs Toulouse to San Sebastian, Spain and packed the venue with a fullhouse of 32,000. Toulouse looked good early on but failed to finsh of their linebreaks and as such Bayonne were winning the match for its entirety. Both sides scored one try each with the young and new French international winger Yohan Huget scoring an intercept try for Bayonne and the experienced international Vincent Clerc scoring for Toulouse on fulltime. The 19-13 victory sees Bayonne move ahead of Toulon into seventh place on the ladder while Toulouse´s lead has been cut to three points. Pumas secondrower, Patricio Albacete played the full 80 minutes for Toulouse and was eevr present at rucks.

Fourth placed Montpellier hosted eleventh placed Agen in the final match of the round and it went to the death with Montpellier winnning the match 25-24 with their only try being scored in the 76th minute of play. Agen scored three tries including one on fulltime to collect a bonus point. The hero was uncapped Argentine winger Martín Bustos Moyano who kicked six penalties and one conversion in scoring 20 points for Montpellier. His place in New Zealand 2011 would appear to be guaranteed. Montpellier also had two Pumas in the starting XV with prop Juan Figallo leaving in the 20th minute with a knee injury which is expected to rukle him out of action for six weeks. Pumas centre Santiago Fernández played flyhalf for Montpellier and USA international centre, Seta Tuilevuka played in the teams 13 shirt. His USA Eagles teammate, Kevin Swiryn played left wing for Agen.

Top 14 Ladder
1 Toulouse 65 
2 Racing Metro 62 
3 Clermont 57 
4 Montpellier 56 
5 Castres 55 
6 Biarritz 54 
7 Bayonne 53 
8 Toulon 50 
9 Perpignan 49 
10 Stade Francais 44 
11 Agen 33 
12 Brive 31
13 La Rochelle 29 
14 Bourgoin 5

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck to Hernandez in recovering for the World Cup