Sunday, April 14, 2013

Top 14 - Round 24 Wrap

Castres 23-23 Bordeaux
The round got underway on Friday evening with Bordeaux-Begles playing away to Castres. It was a vital match for both sides with Castres playing for a home abrrage play-off match while Bordeaux-Begles needed poitns to secure its survival in the French top flight competition. Castres is a difficult place for teams to go to and come away with a win and Bordeaux-Begles lookes certain to buck this trend as Pumas flyhalf Nicolás Sánchez played some good rugby in creating try scoring opportunities and in kicking goals. His penalty on fulltime was crucial as Bordeaux fought back to snatch a draw which guaranteed the teams survival in the Top 14. Sánchez is likely to be Argentina´s first choice flyhalf in the 2013 Rugby Championship but will not play in the June tests against England and Georgia. A player who could well feature is Rafael Carballo who started for Bordeaux on the right wing.   

Montpellier 10-8 Toulouse
Could this be the worst season for Toulouse in the professional era? This will be debated in the coming weeks as the traditional, powerhouse of French rugby was eliminate in the pool stage of the Heineken Cup and is losing matches that cannot be justified. The latest of which was against Montpellier on Saturday. The lack of try scoring ability of the Lionel Beauxis led backline continued as Toulouse was only able to score once and it was in the final minute. Toulouse´s problems are shared by the French national team as, quite simply, a large number of rival teams have equal or superior backs who should be in the French test team.  In winning Montpellier has virtually ensuref that it wll be playing in the play-off´s but Perpignan could still catch up. The match featured five Pumas with Patricio Albacete playing for Toulouse in the secondrow while Agustín Creevy and Maximilano Bustos both started in Montpellier´s frontrow. Santi Fernández was the starting flyhalf for Montpellier while the departing Martín Bustos Moyano was on the bench. The four starting players can be penciled in to the Pumas team for The Rugby Championship while Martín Bustos Moyano is likely to play in June, and possibly kick goals, against England. 
Mont de Marsan 9-34 Racing Métro
Another defeat for Mont de Marsan brings into question whether or not the club was actually happy to have been playing in the Top 14 this season. The clubs won promotion after winning the Pro d2 final last season after having finished in the top five. The top placed team was Grenoble who won automatic promotion and is settled in the Top 14 and recruiting well for next season. Mont de Marsan could struggle to return to the Top 14 given the probability of the competition having quite a strong Lyon team and also having a number of teams from the South-West pushing for promotion. Racing Métro´s bonus point win sees the club join Castres for a share of fourth place and, thus, in line for a home barrage play-off match potentially against  Castres. Four Pumas were invovled in the match with the Bath bound Juan Pablo Orlandi starting at tighthead prop and Juan Martín Hernández playing fullback for Racing Métro. Both backrower Alvaro Galindo and winger Juan Imhoff were on the bench for this match while Manuel Carizza was rested. Of the four players all are in the frame for international duty this year. Orlandi could be the starting ighthead prop against England but his place in the squad for the Rugby Championship remains clouded after he was overtaken by Maximilano Bustos and Francisco Goméz Kodela in November. Galindo is likely to also play in June while Hernández and Imhoff are certain to start in Bloemfontein the Argentina´s first match of the Rugby Championship.  

Bayonne 31-24 Grenoble 
The second half of the season has been less than memorable for Grenoble as the eastern French club has gone from being in the play-off´s zone to now sitting in tenth place ad looking like finishing the season even lower. There was one Puma involved in the match with Joaquín Tuculet featuring on the bench for Grenoble. Tuculet is likely to get game time again for Argentina in 2013 but it is debatable as to whether he will, or not, feature in the Rugby Championship. He played well from thre bench against Wales in November but was given the opportunity due to the non-availability of Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga and Lucas González Amorosino. Both players are likely to be in the Pumas squad for the Rugby Championship providing backup at fullback to Juan Martín Hernández while Rodríguez Gurruchaga wll also provide cover in the centre and González Amorosino will cover wing. As such the probable scenario for Tuculet is that he will miss out on a place in the Rugby Championship and will instead be the starting fullback against England in Salta for the first test in June. This being the case then the likely back-three would be 11 Manuel Montero, 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Martín Bustos Moyano. 

Agen 20-28 Paris
The relegation of Agen was confirmed on Friday evening as Bordeaux-Begles´ two points in Castres guaranteed the survival of Bordeaux. Agen therefore had nothing to play for on Saturday as it played hsot to Stade Français. The Parisians were using the match as preperation for the Amlin Challenge Cup Semi Final, the club´s only chance of qualifying for the 2013-2014 Heineken Cup. The Parisians win had a lot to do with veteran Argentine international Felipe Contepomi. The former Heineken Cup and Celtic League Champion with Leinster scored two tries, one in each half, to put the Parisians in firm control of the match. Contepomi was partnered in the centres by Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga. The Rosario poly-funcional back has previously played for Stade Français at fullback, wing and inside centre. For Los Pumas he has started at both fullback and inside centre. In 2023 he is certain to be back in the squad for the Rugby Championship while Contepomi will retire at the end of the June home series, most certainly as captain. He may well be joined by secondrower Esteban Lozada who started for Agen and was a try scorer. Former Pumas centre Miguel Avramovic also started and played opposite Contepomi while Belisario Agulla was on the bench. The match also featured a North American with Scott LaValla playing in the back for the Paris.

Perpignan 33-28 Biarritz
A great match was played in Perpignan on Sunday with two sides looking to finish the season well to potentially qualify for the Heineken Cup next season. Perpignan will host Stade Français in the first of two Semi Finals while Biarritz wll play Leinster in Dublin in the other. Should either side go on to win the Amlin Challenge Cup then that side will secure its place in next seasons Heineken Cup. Two Pumas featured in the match for Biarritz. The Saracens bound Marcelo Bosch was the starting fullback while Francisco Goméz Kodela was on the bench as a replacement tighthead prop. Both players are inline for selection for the Rugby Championship. USA winger Taku Ngwenya started on the right wing. 

Toulon 26-26 Clermont
A monumental draw at the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles finished off an action-packed round of Top 14 rugby. With the winter having now reached its conclusion the quality of rugby on offer has certainly improved as six of the secn matches produced, what can be termed, high scores. Clermont appeared destined to win the match but Toulon fought back to snatch a draw and hold onto top spot in the Top 14. With two rounds remaining both Toulon and Clermont look assured of being the top two placed sides, meaning both will skip barrage and advance directly to the Semi Finals. With the matches to be played in Nantes neither wll have any home advantage but both will be well prepared having not only being affored a break during barrage but also due to having played in the Semi Finals of the Heineken Cup. Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe started the magtch on ths side of the scrum for Toulon. He is likely to wear the 6 shirt this year in the Rugby Championship with the form of Leonardo Senatore being encouraging and suggesting he will play 8. 

Top 14 Standings
1 Toulon 84
2 Clermont 82
3 Toulouse 74
4 Racing Métro 68
5 Castres 68
6 Montpellier 67
7 Perpignan 61
8 Biarritz 52
9 Paris 50
10 Grenoble 50
11 Bayonne 49
12 Bordeaux 43
13 Agen 27
14 Mont de Marsan 15

* Play-Off´s Places
* Officially Relegated

Castres v Bordeaux

Montpellier v Toulouse

Mont de Marsan v Racing Métro

Bayonne v Grenoble

Agen v Stade Français

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