Monday, April 25, 2011

French Top 14 - Round 25

Round 25 of the French Top 14 took place on Friday and Saturday and despite it being the second to last round, only Toulouse has secured its place in the play-off´s. The remaining places will have to be decided next weekend. On the other end of the scale, the bottom two have been confirmed with Bourgion and La Rochelle dropping to France´s second division, the Pro d2 next season. The round featured players from the Americas with Argentina, the United States and Uruguay all represented. Players from Argentina played in every match to further underline the contribution of Argentina to global rugby.

The Round started with Castres scoring a close 16-13 victory at home over Biarritz in the Firday night match which continues Castres amazing run of form at home. It put Castres well up the ladder while Biarritz, despite winning a bonus point, are only just hanging on with the play-off´s just around the corner. Castres´ only try was scored by retired Uruguay international backrower and captain Rodrigo Capó Ortega following a series of pick-and-go on the Biarritz try line. The first points Biarritz scored were from Argentine international centre, Marcelo Bosch who slotted a drop goal. USA international winger, Taku Ngwenya played right wing and former Argentine international hooker, Eusebio Guiñazú, came on as a secondhalf replacement late in the match. Castres face the tough prospect of facing Perpignan at the Stade Aimé Giral in the teams final match while Biarrtiz travel to face the relegated Bourgoin.

Racing Metro continue to look like strong title contenders after scoring an impressive 51-34 victory over Agen in Paris on Saturday. The bonus point win sees Racing Metro in clear second place on 74 points and means the team is highly likely to qualify directly for the final four given its final match is against the poorly performing Stade Français. Agen´s loss won´t bother the club as it will be very happy to have secured its survival ni the Top 14 Orange next season. In Saturday´s match Former Argentine international centre, Miguel Avramovic scored a try for Agen and was joined in the starting XV by United States Eagles  international winger Kevin Swiryn. Former Argentine international tighthead prop, Juan Pablo Orlandi started for Racing Metro.

Behind Racing Metro lie last seasons Top 14 Orange champions, Clermont in third place. Clermont scored a comfortable 34-10 victory over La Rochelle which means La Rochelle cannot finish higher than thirteenth place and are thus relegated to the second division. The Argentine international frontrow pairing of hooker Mario Ledesma and tighthead prop Martín Scelzo started in the frontrow for Clermont and Scelzo impressed as he went over for a try. Argentine born Italian international centre, Gonzalo Canale started at 12 for Clermont. The central French side will face Toulouse in their final match with everything to play for. Should Clermont lose and fail to score a bonus point the clubs position on the ladder could be significantly changed.

Résumé Clermont - La Rochelle por asm

Toulouse hosted the second division bound Bourgoin and had no problems in notching up a highly impressive 33-0 victory. The win has guaranteeed Toulouse a home semi final and thus a week off leading into the play-off´s. Both sides had Argentine players with Pumas secondrower, Patricio Albacete starting for Toulouse and hooker Alberto Vernet Basualdo coming on as a second half replacement. Uncapped Argentine centre, Matías Viazzo played at flyhalf for Bourgoin. Before dropping down to the Pro d2, Bourgoin have one final home match in the Top 14 Orange, vs Biarritz in the final round of play on May 07.

Bayonne remain in contention for a place in the play-offs after completing an impressive bonus point victory vs the lost souls of Stade Français who again put in an embarrassing performance in going down 54-20. Stade Français resemble anything other than a former elite side and Bayonne who only managed to stay in the Top 14 Orange due to Montauban´s financial irregularities are not a team tha has been strong in recent seasons. Despite being considered a mid-lower table side, Bayonne scored seven tries vs Stade Francais which would have been unthinkable at the start of the season. Stade Français did score one try, to Los Pumas backrower, Juan Leguizamón who had a reasonable match despite being yellow carded. His long time close friend and international teammate, Gonzalo Tiesi, completed a return from injury to start at centre while current Argentine fullback Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga also started. The one-time capped Argentine tighthead prop, Pedro Ledesma played the final five minutes for the Parisians. Bayonne will be looking for a similar performance in its final match, vs La Rochelle.

In a rematch of the famous match at Barcelona two weeks ago, Toulon and Perpignan went head to head, this tim in Toulon. The game started slowly only for Toulon to then dominate in the second half and run away with a bonus point 43-12 victory. Argentine international flyhalf and centre, Felipe Contepomi came on as a secondhalf replacement to set up a try for Toulon following slick hands which is subsequently converted. he also scored a try of his own and also succeeded with the conversion attempt. Pumas backrower, Juan Fernández Lobbe was rested as a precaution due to rib complications while retured Pumas secondrower Rimas Alvarez, did not feature for Perpignan. Toulon are not guaranteed of a place in the play-offs just yet as they have a mouth watering final match vs the seasons surprize packaeg, Montpellier at the Stade Yves du Manoir in Montpellier. The winner will advance to the play-offs and the loser will be eliminated.

Brive will not be relegated to the Pro d2 after the team secured a close but vital 23-21 home victory against Montpellier in the rounds final match. Montpellier have had a poor second half of the season after leading the Top 14 earlier in the competition. Nonetheless, Montpellier still could make the play-offs as the team lies a mere single point behind Biarritz in sixth position and three points behind Toulon in fifth. Brive had three Pumas in its team with Agustin Figuerola starting at scrumhalf, former international tighthead prop, Pablo Cardinalli in the frontrow and former Pumas loosehead prop, Pablo Henn was on the bench. Montpellier, for its part, also had three Argentine international players with tighthead prop, Juan Figallo scoring a try and centre Santiago Fernández starting in the midfield. Uncapped Argentine winger Martín Bustos Moyano was on the bench.

Top 14 Ladder

1 Toulouse 78 
2 Racing Metro 74 
3 Clermont 72 
4 Castres 72 
5 Toulon 70 
6 Biarritz 68 
7 Bayonne 67 
8 Montpellier 67 
9 Perpignan 63 
10 Stade Francais 49 
11 Agen 46 
12 Brive 46 
13 La Rochelle 33 
14 Bourgoin 5 

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