Sunday, September 29, 2013

Top 14 Americas Exports - Round Eight Wrap

USA forward Scott LaValla continues to impress in France
After eight rounds of the 2013-2014 Top 14 season there is still no clear front-runner for the title and there is still many sides that could not only make the final six but also be relegated. So far the better performer has been Paris while Biarritz has been the worst. In between there is not too much variation and with players soon to reutn from internationla duty for Argentina and South Africa there should be changes.

Paris 18-11 Montpellier
The strong early season form continued for Stade Français on Friday as the Parisians defeated Montpellier at the new Stade Jean Bouin. With another four competition points Paris is well and truely enjoying its best season since Rugby World Cup 2007. There were players from Argentina and the USA on the field. Starting in the Parisian back-row was the Argentine-Italian Sergio Parisse and USA Eagle Scott LaValla. Maximilano Bustos started at tight head prop for Montpellier. The match was also a change to see a head-to-head battle between two contenders to be Argentina´s new head coach after Rugby World Cup 2015. Gonzalo Quesada is the Paris head coach while Mario Ledesma is Montpellier´s forwards coach.

Oyonnax 25-22 Toulon
Oyonnax´s debut season in the Top 14 continues to deliver surprizes as the western French side defeated Heineken Cup Champions Toulon on Saturday. The hero for Oyonnax was Argentine international fly half Benjamín Urdapilleta who kicked a final minute dropgoal to seciue victory. Urdapilleta was facing Rugby World Cup 2003 champion Jonny Wilkinson in the halves and formed an all ex-Pumas 9-10 combination with Agustín Figuerola. Toulon was without Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe but it did have an Argentine player in the form of Italian international Martín Castrogiovanni. The result underlines this season as being the most competitive of all time.

Bayonne 27-19 Biarritz
The Basque battle was also the basement battle as Bayonne hosted Biarritz in a battle of 13th v 14th place. The poor start to the season continued for Biarritz as  yet another loss has the club over two championship wins behind the thirteenth placed side. The club´s lack of contracting new players in the off-season means the club is stuck with many former stars who are not what they once were. Biarritz did not play badly against Bayonne this weekend though. The team suffered badly from having a player red-carded in the first half for a reckless and dangerous high tackle. Starting for Biarritz was USA winger Taku Ngwenya and Argentine tight head prop Francisco Goméz Kodela. Bayonne also had a player from the Americas as Martín Bustos Moyano played on the right wing and scored 17 points.

Castres 19-15 Racing Métro
A win for the current Top 14 champions sees changes in the standings for both teams. The off-season arrivals continue to not deliver for Racing Métro as the team is yet to really play good rugby. Racing Métro had two players yellow carded and failed to score a try with Irish fly half Jonny Sexton kicking all the teams points. 

Grenoble 12-12 Brive
The fight to avoid relegation could involve a number of sides come May and two of these are Grenoble and Brive. Their match on Saturday was another packed with yellow-carding and a player was also red-carded. In returning home with a draw Brive is the team to have won the battle this round.

Perpignan 20-16 Toulouse
The final match of Saturday was a close encounter and went the way of the home side. The form of Toulouse this season tends to suggest that the make-up of the French test team will lack Toulouse players. Toulouse will also struggle to play to its stereo-typical standards in the Heienken Cup. Lucky for the team it has both Connacht and Zebre in its pool with the other being Saracens. In other words, Toulouse are a strong bet to make the Quarter Finals but go no further.

Clermont Auvergne 40-11 Bordeaux-Begles
In a rare Sunday afternoon fixture Clermont Auvergne returned to form to complete a bonus point victory. The match was far from pretty and saw three Clermont players fighting one one Bordeaux player at the same time. For Bordeaux-Begles the loss sees the club tied with Bayonne meaning it needs to turn things around or it will find itself in the relegation zone. Good news for the club is the form of Nicolás Sánchez for Argentina. A former Puma played for Bordeaux with Rafael Carballo playing on the right wing. Canadian Jamie Cudmore was missing and will not play for five more weeks due to injury.

1 Paris 26
2 Clermont 24
3 Toulon 23
4 Montpellier 22
5 Toulouse 22
6 Racing Métro 21
7 Perpignan 20
8 Castres 20
9 Grenoble 19
10 Oyonnax 17
11 Brive 17
12 Bordeaux 16
13 Bayonne 16
14 Biarritz 7

* Play-Offs Zone
* Relegation Zone

Paris v Montpellier

Oyonnax v Toulon

Bayonne v Biarritz

Castres v Racing Métro

Grenoble v Brive

Perpignan v Toulouse

Clermont Auvergne v Bordeaux-Begles

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