Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top 14: Round 9 - Pumas, Canucks, Eagles and Teros in action

This weekends round of Top 14 rugby yet again underlined the strength of the Americas, the only region never to have hosted a Rugby World Cup. Players from Argentina, Canada, the United States of America and Uruguay all played in what is the elite level of French Rugby and is the worlds best domestic competition. The French competition continues to rise in level with more and more imported players competiting with France´s best players and as Rugby World Cup 2011 showed, the global game is all the better because of it with top performers from the likes of Argentina, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Romania, South Africa, Samoa, Tonga and Wales all playing for leading French sides.

The round kicked off on Friday with one match as Castres hosted Paris side, Racing Metro and were looking likely to notch up another win in what has been a superb start to the season. Thje Parisians fielded a vastly weakened lineup yet were successful as winning the match 23-19. Castres looked likely to win as they had five minutes of possession after the fulltime mark of 80 minutes. With Racing Metro leading by four points the home side pressed for a try as they already had a bonus point guaranteed. After conceeding multiple penalties, Racing Metro mmanaged to turnover the ball and hold on for victory. The match was the debut of Los Pumas World Cup winger, Juan Imhoff who played the entire match and had a hand in setting up Virimi Vakatawa´s try. Former Argentine international tighthead prop, Juan Pablo Orlandi also featured as he started for the Parisians whilst Uruguayan international forward, Rodrigo Capó Ortega was a secondhalf replacement for Castres. Argenitne flyhalg, Juan Martín Hernández and backrower, Alvaro Galindo were both rested for Racing Metro.

The remaining twelve teams were scheduled to all be in action on Saturday. The match between Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon OU was postponed, however, and as such both teams handed struglling side Biarritz a great chance to get off the bottom of the ladder.  One of the traditional French giants, Biarritz, sit bottom of the table and had a tough away match against the 2010 champions, Clermont. The home side were expected to win as Biarritz was without its French stars (as were Clermont) from World Cup duty. Biarritz were also missing Marcelo Bosch who was rested after picking up a minor injury last weekend.  Clermont, indeed, got the win and picked up a bonus point in scoring five tries but not only did the central Frence side win but they dominated in demolishing Biarritz 41-0. Italy´s Argentine born centre, Gonzalo Canale scored one of Clermont´s tries and was joined in the starting lineup by Canadian international secondrower, Jamie Cudmore. The Canuck went head-to head with Argentina´s Manuel Carizza while a second Argentine player, Francisco Gómez Kodela started at prop. He played against France´s outstanding frontrower, Thomas Domingo who missed the World Cup through injury. Sadly for him, for France and for global rugby, he was badly injured whem a Biarritz player cleaned out a ruck in which Domingo was defending. His season may well be over. USA international winger, Taku Ngwenya started on the right wing for the Basque side.

ASM : L'Interview de Thomas Domingo por asm
Biarritz´s Basque neighbours, Bayonne have similarly struggled in early season matches and were in for a tough assignement on Saturday as they hosted the 2009 French Champions, Perpignan. USAP has not been its usual self thus far with the sides French World Cup players being severely missed. The match was thus vital to both sides and Bayonne´s 18-16 win has releaved the pressure on the team who will now face Biarritz at San Sebastien, Spain in round ten. The match was the last ever game for 37 year old former Argentine international secondrower, Rimas Alvarez who joined the side over a decade ago and helped the side to multiple French and Heineken Cup finals.

Résumé du match Bayonne USAP Oct 11 por USAP_Communication

The high-spending Toulon hosted Brive who have been performing better than normal so far this season. The teams were both close to being at fullstrength due to the lack of French international players in their ranks as compare to that of most other teams in similar positions on the ladder. Both, however, were without Pumas players with Toulon missing Argentine vice-captina and backrower, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe and Brive missing scrumhalf Agustín Figuerola. Toulon with English international flyhalf, Jonny Wilkinson on target were able to dominate Brive as he kicked six penalties in Toulon´s 18-3 tryless match. Former Argentine international loosehead prop, Pablo Henn played for Brive after coming off the bench as a replacement.

The traditional classic of Toulouse vs Stade Français has been tarnished over the past two seasons with the Parisian side unable to live up to its standards. This season the club has been boosted by the arrival of a large contingent of international stars including Paul Williams who impressed for Samoa at Rugby World Cup 2011 and Argenitna´s captain, Felipe Contepomi. The Parisians proved to be stronger than in their recent appearances in Toulouse but ther home side were still the stronger as Toulouse won the contest 18-15. Contepomi contributed to the scoreboard as he slotted a secondhald dropgoal as Stade Français looked to fight back but came up three poins short. Contepomi started at flyhalf and formed a 10-12 pivot combination with Argentina´s World Cup fullback, Martín Rodríguez Guruchaga. Pumas loosehead prop, Rodrigo Roncero also started for Paris in the frontrow as did Argentine born Italian international captain and backrower, Sergio Parisse. The side also had a North American as USA Eagles secondrower, Scott LaValla was on the bench for the Parisians. Toulouse were without Pumas secondrower, Patricio Albacete who is out injured with an ankle injury but there were three Argentine players on the park for Toulouse. Nicolás Vergallo started at scrumhalf and played the full 80 minutes. He was joined in the starting lineup by former Pumas hooker, Alberto Vernet Basualdo who was replaced by another former Pumas frontrower, Eusebio Guiñazú.

The rounds final match took place in Agen with last seasons strugglers continuing their great start to the season with an 18-12 victory over last seasons beaten finalists, Montpellier. Agen has the adcantage of having no World Cup players while Montpellier was still missing its two French internationals. Both sides had multiple Argentine players with the home side featuring former Pumas outside centre, Miguel Avramovic in the 13 shirt and 35 year old veteran tighthead prop, Martín Scelzo in the starting lineup. Avramovic played the full 80 minutes while Scelzo played for 75 minutes. Montpellier had five of its six Argentine players with Lucas González Amorosino making his debut on the wing. He was joined in the back three by unwanted Argentine international winger / fullback Martín Bustos Moyano who played fullback and was ther teams goalkicker. Bustos Moyano kicked nine points for Montpellier while Los Pumas international flyhalf, Santiago Fernández started at 10 for Montpellier and slotted a first half dropgoal. Two other World Cup Pumas were on debut with hooker Agustín Creevy and prop Maximiliano Bustos both entering the match as replacements. Juan Figallo did not play for Montpellier due to injury and is rumoured to be out for the season due to injury according some rumours circulating French social media.

Top 14 Orange Standings

1 Clermont 35
2 Toulouse 32
3 Castres 31
4 Toulon 28
5 Agen 24
6 Racing Metro 21
7 Brive 18
8 Perpignan 18
9 Stade Français 16
10 Bayonne 15
11 Montpellier 14
11 Bordeaux-Begles 13 *
13 Lyon 12 *
14 Biarritz 10

* Game in hand

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