Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Top 14 Americas Exports - Round Four Wrap

Puma Benjamín Urdapilleta was on form for Oyonnax in round four
Due to the extremely long club season the fourth round of the French competition, the Top 14, was played today as a means of saving time later in the season. The French club season is the longest professional competition in world rugby and is forced to be paused at times due to other activities. In addition to holiday events including Christmas the competition stops for the Heineken Cup, Amlin Challenge Cup and for international matches. Round four like all others featured players from the Americas as the last remaining IRB recognized region to host a Rugby World Cup continues to contribute significantly to the global game.

Castres 38-10 Paris
The demanding task of playing three matches in eight days began with last season´s champions, Castres hosting former power houses Stade Français Paris. The match was far from competitive as the home side cruised to a bonus point victory by scoring six tries to one. The only try scored by the Parisians was by USA international Scott LaValla who started in the back-row. Joining LaValla was Martín Rodríguez Gurruchaga who started at inside centre after he was released from the Pumas squad to play club rugby. The match also involved Uruguay´s Rodrigo Capó Ortega. The 2003 Rugby World Cup player started in the second-row for Castres.

Bordeaux 29-36 Montpellier
After having done so well against Toulouse and Castres Bordeaux ought to, in theory, have competed well at home to defeat Montpellier. Instead it was Montpellier who impressed as the visiting side played its best match of the season so far. Starting for Montpellier was tight head prop Maximilano Bustos while winger Rafael Carballo was on the bench for Bordeaux. Neither player is in Argentina´s squad for the Rugby Championship. Both were in the 2012 squad but recieved no game time.

Clermont 55-0 Bayonne
A thunderous home victory for Clermont Auvergne raises questions over the level of depth in the Bayonne squad. The team fielded for today´s match was far below full strength with Martín Bustos Moyano being amongst the rested players. Curiously Clermont´s style of play has been singled out recently as being a New Zealand Super Rugby team playing in central France. The team´s Canadian, Jamie Cudmore, remains out of action with a broken hand.

Oyonnax 24-22 Biarritz
Had Oyonnax been offered two wins and two losses from its first four matches in the Top 14 then the club and its supporters would gladly have said yes please. Such has been the competitiveness of clubs in general in the early rounds that Oyonnax has defeated both Clermont and Biarritz. The club´s win today featured a 9-10 Argentine combination with Agustín Figuerola playing scrumhalf and Benjamín Urdapilleta pulling the strings from fly half. Urdapilleta scored fifteen points today and set up a try. Playing for Biarritz were USA international winger Taku Ngwenya and Argentine tighthead prop Francisco Goméz Kodela. The American speedster started while the Puma was a replacement.

Perpignan 36-13 Grenoble
Both Perpignan and Grenoble have been up and down in the first four rounds of the competition and their form indicates that both sides are likely to be mid-table performers throughout the season. 

Toulon 62-12 Brive
A nine tries to zero home victory for Toulon confirmed Brive as being a club likely to face relegation throughout this season. Toulon had no problems at all despite neither Johnny Wilkinson nor Frédéric Michalak playing. It will not get any easier for Brive who will host a rested Bayonne on Sunday.

Toulouse 30-6 Racing Métro
Although the club is not bottom of the table Racing Métro has certainly had the worst start to the season of all clubs based on players and reputation. Racing Métro is missing players to the Rugby Championship but has the British and Irish Lions 10-12 combination in Jonny Sexton and Jamie Roberts. They have been yet to combine well and they were both rested today. The team, though, was from being weak as many test players were involved but Toulouse had more and was far too strong. 

Top 14 Standings
1 Clermont 14
2 Toulon 13
3 Castres 12
4 Toulouse 11
5 Montpellier 11
6 Paris 10
7 Perpignan 10
8 Bordeaux 9
9 Oyonnax 9
10 Bayonne 8
11 Racing Métro 8
12 Grenoble 8
13 Biarritz 6
14 Brive 5

* Play-Offs Zone
* Relegation Zone

Castres v Paris

Bordeaux v Montpellier

Clermont v Bayonne

Oyonnax v Biarritz

Perpignan v Grenoble

Toulon v Brive

Toulouse v Racing Métro

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