Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top 14 - Round 22

Round 22 of the French Top 14 produced some highly important results.With the play-offs fast approaching it is important for teams at both ends of the competition ladder to win matches. Action kicked off in Castres on Friday evening as Castres played host to Toulon at the Stade Pierre Antoine. Castres fullback Romain Teulet kicked six penalties in scoring all of his sides points as Castres nootched up an important 18-12 victory to hold third place in the competition. Toulon proved to be just as poor in attack as all 12 of Toulon´s points came from the boot of Johnny Wilkinson. Toulon now sit in eighth place two points behind Clermont and Perpignan who are tied for sixth place. Retired Uruguay international captain, Rodrigo Capó Ortega started in the second row for Castres. Argentina captain Felipe Contepomi played outside centre and backrower Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe played blindside flanker for Toulon.

Paris side Racing Metro broke new ground on Saturday by following Stade Français´s lead in hosting a regular season match at the Stade de France. Racing succeeded in putting on a show as the Parisians packed the 80,000 capacity stadium and pulled off an impressive 43-21 victory over leaders Toulouse. The result sees Toulouse´s lead at the top of the ladder cut to just one point and underlines the poor performances of the majority of Toulouse´s international players in the recently completed Six Nations. Senior Pumas players Juan Martín Hernández and Patricio Albacete missed the match through injury as did Pumas scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo. A player in contention for a spot in New Zealand 2011, Alvaro Galindo had a good match in the backriow for Racnig Metro as he almost scored a first half try for the winning team.

The battle of the Basque´s also took place on Saturday and was also a match relocated to a larger venue. It took place in Spain at the Stade d'Anoeta in San Sebastien and Biarritz took Bayonne to the cleaners in winning 40-10. It was a four tries to one victory with Argentina international centre, Marcelo Bosch scoring a try in the first minute of the match. he was joined in the backline by USA international winger Taku Ngwenya who also went over for a first half try as Biarritz went up 34-10 at the interval. In the second half there would be no more tries as Biarritz took the foot off the gas to close out an important victory. the win sees Biarritz hold onto fourth place but close the gap between themselves and third placed Castres to a mere single point. Bayonne´s playoffs chances, on the other hand, look complicated.

Agen notched up a vital win over last seasons champions Clermont in Agen. The 26-17 victory sees Agen start to move clear of the relegation zone as the team now sits in 12th place, five points ahead of La Rochelle in 13th. USA international winger Kevin Swiryn was on the bench for Clermont as was the returning Argentina centre, Miguel Avramovic. Agen´s impressive win featured strong performances from the second and backrowers as Agen were the superior side at the breakdown. Clermont remain in the play-off´s zone but are in sixth place equal with the improving Perpignan.

Résumé Agen-ASM por asm

Two teams in contention of being relegated to the Pro d2 next season went head to head in central France also on Saturday. Brive were far too strong for bottom of the table Bourgoin in pulling off a highly important 50-6 bonus point thrashing of the former Top 14 title contenders. The win sees Brive move four points ahead of La Rochelle who are in 13th place. With the bottom two sides being relegated, Brive have done themselves a huge favor. Argentina international scrumhalf Agustín Figuerola scored  Brive´s seventh try of a total of eight - his first since joining the club this season. Former Argentina international tighthead prop Pablo Cardinali also played for Brive and uncapped Argentina centre Matías Viazzo played the match at flyhalf for Bourgoin and was yellow carded in the second half.

Brive´s win put pressure on La Rochelle to do the same but La Rochelle had a far more difficult match as they faced Perpignan. The Catalans were clearly the better team in notching up a five tries to one victory which puts Perpignan, for the first time this season, on the verge of a place in the play-off´s. Retired Argentina secondrower Rimas Alvarez Kairelis started in the secondrow for Perpignan while uncapped Argentina hooker Franco Pani played hooker for La Rochelle until being replaced in the second half by another uncapped Argentina player, Andrés Bordoy. the 34-16 victory could be key as Perpigna host leaders Toulouse on Friday evening and La Rochelle have a vital match away vs Brive on Saturday.

Résumé du match LA ROCHELLE USAP - Mars2011 por USAP_Communication

Sunday´s only match took saw an equally important match for the prospects of two teams as Montpellier played host to Stade Français. A loss for either side could have drastically changed their position on the ladder as well as having significant implications for the teams play-off´s chances. After a drop goal from former France international flyhalf Lionel Beauxis in the 52nd minute Stade Français broke clear to hold a 20-12 lead. Montpellier, however, again showed how far they have come this season as they managed to come back to complete a 29-23 victory to hold onto fifth place in the Top 14 and leave the cash rich Stade Français looking outrageously out of place in 10th spot. Uncapped Argentina winger Martín Bustos Moyano proved to be a hero yet again as he kicked 16 points for Montpellier. He was joined in the starting XV by a centres pairing of Argentina international centre Santiago Fernández and USA international centre Seta Tuilevuka. Argentina international loosehead prop Rodrigo Roncero started the match for Stade Français.

Top 14 Ladder

1 Toulouse 69
2 Racing Metro 68
3 Castres 63
4 Biarritz 62
5 Montpellier 61
6 Clermont 58
7 Perpignan 58
8 Toulon 56
9 Bayonne 54
10 Stade Francais 48
11 Agen 38
12 Brive 37
13 La Rochelle 33
14 Bourgoin 5

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