Tuesday, October 18, 2011

French Top 14 - Round 7

The first six rounds of the 2011-2012 French Top 14 took place without players all players involved in Rugby World Cup 2011. The lack of star players have made the Top 14 more unpredictable than ever with big name teams unable to play up to their usual standards. Two teams who were in the relegation zone for large periods of the previous season, Agen and Brive, have been able to defeat teams who would, at full strength, be far too good for them. Teams with lower numbers of players at New Zealand 2011 have been greatly advantaged and this is evident in the standings of the Top 14 after the first seven rounds with Castres out on top while Biarritz and Montpellier struggle. Incredibly, Biarritz are bottom of the table and will likely struggle again in round eight due to the absence of French World Cup players.

Round seven featured five Friday matches with Castres confirming themselves at the top of the table after defeating the 2011 champions, Toulouse 24-3 in a tryless match. Toulouse were missing eight players who were on duty for France in the semi final win over Wales whilst Castres were only missing one. Castres welcomed back its international players from other countries participating in Rugby World Cup 2011 with the likes of Joe Tekori, Seremaia Bai and Max Evans playing. Evans formed what looks like being a formidable left-right wing combination with former French international, Marc Andreu. Argentine international secondrower, Patricio Albacete did not play as Pumas players were given the weekend off due to their participation in the World Cup Quarter Finals five days previously. Toulouse did, however, feature two Argentine players with Eusebio Guiñazú playing the first sixty minutes of the match at hooker before being replaced by Alberto Vernet Basualdo. Both players are former international players for Argentina. Castres had a South American international player of their own with Uruguayan forward, Rodrigo Capó Ortega starting in the secondrow.

A match of better quality took place in Brive as the home side scored four tries to one to defeated Biarritz 32-7 and force the 2010 Heineken Cup finalists to bottom place of the Top 14 Orange table. Biarritz welcomed back USA international winger, Taku Ngwenya from Rugby World Cup duty but had to field another highly depleted lineup which lacked the Pumas duo of Marcelo Bosch and Manuel Carizza as well as the French internationals who will not return until at least round nine. Ngwenya must be looking for a good season after he, surprizingly, failed to score a try at all in New Zealand. Brive had a South American on the field with former Argentine international prop, Pablo Cardinali playing the first 62 minutes of the match.
The class of Clermont has been highly evident as despite having five players missing to international duty with France and others playing for other clubs, the central French side has been performing very well. After the clubs 29-13 round seven win over Agen, Clermont lie in second place behind Castres. Clermont´s win featured two tries and the debut of former Stade Français and Toulouse flyhalf, David Skrela who kicked fourteen points before being replaced by Australia´s Brock James. Former Argentine international centre, Miguel Avramovic started for Agen while the young Belisario Agulla came on as a second half replacement on the wing. Former Clermont prop, Martín Scelzo is exspected to make his debut for Agen in round eight after returning to France following his involvement with Los Pumas at Rugby World Cup 2011.

USAP vs Agen : Le résumé du match por USAP_Communication

One of the hardest-hit teams has been last seasons finalists, Montpellier who have been missing two French
internationals as well as five Pumas and players to Fiji and Georgia. The return of Georgia´s best player, Mamuka Gorgodze conincided with the teams important 26-17 away victory vs Bayonne.  Unwanted Argentine winger, Martín Bustos Moyano played fullback for the winners and had a good game in kicking thirteen points. The club can now look to return to its form from last season as flyhalf Santiago Fernández and prop Juan Figallo return from Rugby World Cup duty and the club welcomes three new recruits in Argentine fullback Lucas González Amorosino, hooker Agustín Creevy and prop Maximilano Bustos.

After seven months on the sidelines, Juan Martín Hernández returned to the playing field for the first time since injuring his knee in a top 14 clash vs Bourgoin earlier in 2011. He was selected at fullback for Racing Metro in the teams match at Bordeaux vs Top 14 Orange newcomers, Bordeaux-Begles. El Mago played the first half before requesting to be replaced at halftime after he was short of match fitness and complained of a lack of oxygen to the Racing Metro coaching staff. Hernández made some good tackles and was sound on defence at fullback. The home side showed that they are able to compete at the Top 14 level as the kept Racing Metro tryless and won the match 22-18. Former Argentine international winger, Rafael Carballo featured for Bordeaux-Begles as a second half replacement while World Cup Pumas member, Nicolás Sánchez may be in line for his debut next weekend. Juan Orlandi did not play for Racing Metro and neither did Alvaro Galindo who missed out due to injury. Pablo Henn and Agustín Figuerola missed out on playing for Brive.

J7 - UBB v RM92 - Le résumé en vidéo por racingmetro92

Two teams who did well in last seasons Heineken Cup but underperformed badly in the Top 14 Orange went head-to-head in Toulon on Saturday. The home side has not been as badly influenced by Rugby World Cup 2011 as the visitors and so it showed on the scoreboard as Toulon demolished Perpignan 38-0. Jonny Wilkinson played his first game for the club since the World Cup while Argenitne backrower, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe is out of action and not likely to return for several months. Retired Pumas secondrower, Rimas Alvarez was in the starting lineup for Perpignan. Alvarez is officially in his last season of rugby and will retire aged 37 years old after playing for more than a decade for Perpignan and being a French Champion in 2009.

The final match of the round featured, for the first time ever, the two biggest French cities going head-to-head in the Top 14. Lyon OU were promotted to the Top 14 after winning the Pro d2 last season and the club has no intention of returning to the French second division. The club hosted Stade Français of Paris and kept them tryless in completing an 18-6 victory. Despite winning, Lyon remain in the relegation zone as they sit in 13th position. Stade Français had Argentine born Italian international backrower and captain, Sergio Parisse in the starting lineup and is expecting the return of Pumas players for round eight. Lyon OU´s star recruit, Pumas backrower, Juan Manuel Leguizamón should also make his debut for the club this coming weekend.


Top 14 Table

1 Castres 26
2 Clermont 25
3 Toulouse 23
4 Toulon 20
5 Perpignan 17
6 Racing Metro 16
7 Stade Français 15
8 Agen 15 
9 Brive 13
10 Bordeaux-Begles 13
11 Montpellier 12
12 Bayonne 11
13 Lyon 10
14 Biarritz 8

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