Sunday, October 23, 2011

French Top 14 - Round 8

Round 8 of the 2010-2011 Top 14 Orange featured plenty of Argentine action with a large contingent of Pumas players from Rugby World Cup 2011 back in action for the French clubs. There was also a number of USA players as well as an international player from both Canada and Uruguay. It was another case in point of why bringing Rugby World Cup 2023 to the Americas is the right thing to do as the only region which by 2019 will not have hosted a Rugby World Cup has a large number of players matching it with the best players from France, the same country which played in a Rugby World Cup final for the third time in history earlier today.

Action kicked off in Perpignan on Friday evening with the 2009 French Champions hosting the 2010 champions. Perpignan´s famous Aimé-Giral Stadium was the venue of one of the bworst performances for the Catalans ever as visitors, Clermont ran riot in defeating Perpignan 39-3 with a blaze of five unanswered tries. Former Argentine international secondrower, Rimas Álvarez Kairelis played his final match at home for Perpignan as the veteran is set to retire at the end of this month. Álvarez Kairelis has been playing for Perpignan since 2001 and has been through the battles, appearing in Heineken Cup finals and Top 14 finals for the club. He was a part of the 2009 French Championship side. Àlvarez Kairelis started in the secondrow and played 67 minutes before being replaced. He played against Canadian international secondrower, Jamie Cudmore who is into his seventh year with the club. Àlvarez Kairelis´ final match will be next weekend with Perpignan facing Bayonne in an away match.

Last years beaten finalists, Montpellier. have been feeling the pinch as a lagre number of players have been unavaliable so far due to their involvement in Rugby World Cup 2011. The teams home match vs Castres on Saturday featured Georgian international backrower, Mamuka Gorgodze but the majority of other World Cup players did not feature due to their latter return to the club. Castres, on the other hand, were at full strength and came back from a half time deficit to win the match 21-16 and hold onto top spot of the Top 14, tied with Clermont. Uruguayan international, Rodrigo Capó Ortega played secondrow for Castres while Montpellier had two of its six Argentine playing. Argentine international flyhalf, Santiago Fernández made his return as a second half replacement from the bench and came close to winning the match for Montpellier with a kick through but the chase was not up to the mark. Martín Bustos Moyano, who missed out on World Cup selection, also came on as a substitute and kicked a secondhalf penalty for the hosts.

Two of France´s most famous cities, Toulouse and Bordeaux met in Toulouse with the host team firm favorites despite missing a host of players to international duty as France was preparing to play in the World Cup final. Toulouse´s 56-6 win over Bordeaux-Begles was a shake up to the newcomers to the Top 14 as things are only going to be tougher as clubs welcoem back their World Cup players. The first half was a far closer match than the scoreline suggests as Toulouse scored six of its seven times after the interval. Former Argentine international hooker, Alberto Vernet Basualdo started for Toulouse in this postion, while three other Argentine players came on as replacements. Two of Argentina´s key World Cup players, Patricio Albacete and Nicolás Vergallo made their first appearances since returning from New Zealand while former Pumas international frontrower, Eusebio Guiñazú also got some game time late in the match. It was not a good return for Albacete who left the field injured after hurting his right ankle. Former Argentine international winger, Rafael Carballo played centre for Bordauex-Begles while Nicolás Sánchez could make his debut for the club next weekend.

Bottom of the table Biarritz hosted the other enwcomers to the Top 14, Lyon with both teams needing a win to get get out of the relegation zone. It was not to be, however, as the teams competed to a 15-15 draw. The result sees Biarritz remain in last place while Lyon jump ahead of Bayonne to sit in twelfth position, just outside of the relegation zone. Argentine prop Francisco Gómez Kodela made his first appearance for the club since recently arriving from Argentina. he was in the starting lineup as were the returnging World Cup duo of Marcelo Bosch and Manuel Carizza. Bosch played flyhalf and kicked a penalty for Biarritz while Carizza scored his teams second and final try of the match. The Sotuh American trio was joined by USA international winger Taku Ngwenya who played on the right wing for Biarritz. Argentine international backrower, Juan Manuel Leguizamón made his debut for Lyon as a secondhalf replacement.

Two teams looking to perform significantly better this season had an important match in Agen with the home side running out impressive winners as they defeated Stade Français 37-13 in what can be described as nothing less than a highly impressive result. The home side features three Argentine players with Pumas World Cup prop, Martín Scelzo making his debut for Agen after joining from Clermont. He was a secondhalf replacement as was winger Belisario Agulla. Former Pumas centre, Miguel Avramovic started at outside centre for Agen and played the full 80 minutes. The Parisians had Argentine captain, Felipe Contepomi making his debut from the club after joining from Toulon. He started at inside centre while Pumas World Cup fullback, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga came on as a replacement in the 63rd minute. Argentine born Italian international backrower and captain, Sergio Parisse played 8 for Stade Français. USA international secondrower, Scott LaValla started in the secondrow for the Parisians.

Two teams who may well be in for a fight to aviod relegation as the season unfolds are Brive and Bayonne. Both are traditional Top 14 sides but are from small towns and lack the same quality rosters that the other more traditional teams have. Brive has been enjoying the games during the World Cup as it has been able to compete much better due to teams missing a large number of players. The sides great start to the season continued as Brive defeated Bayonne 30-10 to complete a bonus point victory. The side had one of its three Argentine players present with former Pumas tighthead prop Pablo Cardinali starting in the front row. Both Pablo Henn and Agustín Creevy missed out due to injury.

The final match of the round saw Toulon defeat Racing Metro 16-9 in Paris to sit comfortably in the play-off´s zone after eight matches. Pumas backrower, Juan Martín Fernaández Lobbe did not play and it is still unclear as to when he will return following the knee injury he sustained playing against Scotland in the World Cup. Despite the loss Racing Metro can breath easily as Argentine international flyhalf, Juan Martín Hernández played his second consecutive match for the club and played the full eighty minutes. He missed Rugby World Cup 2011 after injurying his knee in a Top 14 clash seven months ago vs Bourgoin. Hernández played at fullback for the Parisians. Another player to miss the World Cup was Pumas backrower, Alvaro Galindo who was tipped to start in the backrow for Argentina after an impressive 2010-2011 season with Racing Metro. Argentine born Italian international secondrower, Santiago Dellapé started for Racing Metro.

Top 14 Standings

1 Clermont 30
2 Castres 30
3 Toulouse 28
4 Toulon 24
5 Agen 20
6 Brive 18
7 Perpignan 17
8 Racing Metro 17
9 Stade Francais 15
10 Bordeaux 13
11 Montpellier 13
12 Lyon 12
13 Bayonne 11
14 Biarritz 10

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