Saturday, April 13, 2013

Benjamín Urdapilleta scores 17 points to help Oyonnax win the Pro d2


Some players move from one professional competition to another to find their feet and in the case of Argentine international flyhalf Benjamín Urdapilleta this is precisely what has happened to him in the 2012-2013 season. Urdapilleta moved from England to France after being in the Harlequins squad last season but not being able to establish himself in the starting lineup. He got game time in big matches, including Heineken Cup games but was left out of the team which went on to win the Aviva Premiership. In search of more game time Urdapilleta moved not only to France but to the second division, joining a small town club based in Oyonnax in eastern France near Switzerland. 

The move to Oyonnax proved to be screwed as he has been the club´s first choice flyhalf and has been the teams goalkicker for most of the season. He kicked five penalties and one conversion in the teams 30-29 away loss against Brive on Saturday but in losing by less than seven points the club collected one competition point which means Oyonnax now has 102 points in the Pro d2. The match was Urdapilleta´s 25th Pro d2 game of the season and his points mean that he has scored over 200 points this season - more than all of Marcelo Bosch, Felipe Contepomi, Santiago Fernández, Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Juan Martín Hernández, Ignacio Mieres, Martín Bustos Moyano and Nicolás Sánchez. 

Of these players all are likely to get game time this year for Argentina as is Urdapilleta. Bosch, Fernández, Rodríguez Gurruchaga, Hernández and Sánchez are all highly likely to play in the Rugby Championship  meaning none will face England or Georgia in June. As such the flyhalf for June could well come down to either Mieres or Urdapilleta with Contepomi playing at inside centre before retiring to begin his post rugby life as a full time doctor in Buenos Aires. While Urdapilleta will not be likely to be used as a goalkicker in June his form puts him in pole position to start against England. Should this eventuate then it would mark an impressive come back and would see him then return to France to play as flyhalf for Oyonnax in the Top 14. n June 2012 Urdapilleta was used as second choice behind Mieres but for 2013 it is likely to be reveresed after Mieres has been unable to recieve sufficient game time for Exeter.  

While there are still three rounds remaining Oyonnax cannot be caught by any club now due to it having twenty more points than the next highest placed side. In other words Oyonnax has been promoted to the Top 14 as the Pro d2 champion. It can now start planning for the 2013-2014 season which will be tough. It can learn from the mistakes of other clubs who have failed to recruit smartly. The survival of Bordeaux-Begles over the past two seasons is testiment to teams with lower budgets being able to recruit well. The club has an impressive list of backs who have torn apart big name clubs, including competition leaders Toulon. It does lack forwards though and will need to secure some better frontrowers and secondrowers for next season. Another case in point is Grenoble which won far more matches than it, perhaps, whould have thanks to it having recruited good players cheaply. In contrast to Bordeaux-Begles and Grenoble the likes of Mont de Marsan and Lyon have not recruited well enough and have paid the price.  

At the start of the season the chances of Oyonnax winning promotion to the Top 14 appeared thin. The team would have to battle with a host of former Top 14 teams including Albi, Auch, Brive, Colomiers, Dax, La Rochelle, Lyon, Narbonne and Pau. Of these clubs all except La Rochelle and Lyon can be said to be based in the South-West of France, the traditional hot bed of French rugby. Both clubs being relegated from the Top 14 are from the South-West with Mont de Marsan and Agen set to increase the region´s representation in the second division. Just who joins Oyonnax in the Top 14 remains to be confirmed but it would appear to be one of La Rochelle, Brive, Pau, Aurillac, Lyon or Tarbes who are ranked from second to seventh in that order. The clubs that finish from second (behind Oyonnax) to fifth will dispute the Pro d2 Semi Finals and Final with the winner winning promotion. 

Round 27 Results
Aix-en-Provence 27-12 Albi
Aurillac 32-17 Carcassonne
Béziers 23-9 Colomiers
Lyon 32-25 Massy
Narbonne 31-15 Auch
Tarbes 44-12 Dax

* Pau v La Rochelle to be played on Sunday

Pro d2 Standings
1 Oyonnax 102
2 La Rochelle 82
3 Brive 82
4 Pau 76
5 Aurillac 73
6 Lyon 71
7 Tarbes 71
8 Narbonne 66
9 Carcassonne 64
10 Colomiers 57
11 Albi 54
12 Auch 45
13 Béziers 45
14 Aix-en-Provence 43
15 Dax 41
16 Massy 32

* Champion 
* Play-Off´s Zone
* Facing Relegation


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