Sunday, November 3, 2013

Top 14 Americas Exports - Round 11 Wrap

Urdapilleta kicked Oyonnax to victory over Perpignan on Saturday

The eleventh round of the French Championship, the Top 14 produced a number of upset results as this seasons competition continues to be the most unpredictable of all time. With the competition now pausing for the autumn internationals there are no break-away teams at the top. Rather there is a congestion of ten teams all within one bonus point victory of each other. The list stretches from Toulon and Montpellier on 32 points down to Racing Métro, Brive and Castres on 27. Six points behind on 21 points are Bordeaux, Oyonnax and Bayonne whle bottom of the table is Biarritz on 12 points. In other words three sides are joining Biarritz in facing relegation at this point in time. It will only get more difficult with winter set to kick-in shortly.  

The round kicked-off on Friday evening with the first of two matches sees Toulon host Bordeaux-Begles. Both teams have had there moments this season but neither has been the same force away from home. Toulon broke away in the second half to complete a twenty point win but the club missed out on scoring a bonus point. The Argentine-Italian Martín Castrogiovanni was on the bench for Toulon while Nicolás Sánchez was on Bordeaux´s bench. Castrogiovanni is set to earn his 100th test cap this month.

The second Friday fixture saw South Africa´s best scrum-haçf continue to deliver as Rory Kockott kicked Castres to a draw after Clermont had looked likely to win. Kockott remains uncapped with South Africa selecting players that have not been performing to the same level as Kockott over the past telve months. In an Americas battle Uruguayan forward Rodrígo Capó Ortega faced off against Canadian enforcer Jamie Cudmore with both players starting in the second-row.

It is not often that a promoted team can defeat a power-house by Toulouse but such has been the form of both sides this season that reputations ca seemingly not be used any longer. Toulouse has played poorly away from home while Brive is currently looking like still being outside of the relegation zone come the end of the season. The result sees Toulouse drop four players while Brive is now six points clear of where it needs to be. Patricio Albacete played in the second-row for Toulouse.

Bottom of the table Biarritz recovered from last weeks humiliation to win a tryless match on Saturday. With the club so far behind the safety zone Dimitri Yachvili was used at fly half rather than scrum-half where he played in the Rugby World Cup 2011 final. Two players from the Americas started for Biarritz. USA Eagles winger Taku Ngwenya wore the number 14 shirt while former Pumas prop Francisco Goméz Kodela was the starting tighthead prop. Juan Imhoff started against Ngwenya.

A hard-fought home win for Montpellier returns the club back to the top of the standings, albeit tied with Toulon. Grenoble remain mid-table but has an advantage over many other sides in that it is not going to lose a notable list of players to international duty this month. Montpellier is to lose Maximilano Bustos who could very likely ge game time at tighthead prop in place of the injured Juan Figallo who will only return for Montpellier in 2014. Bustos started in the front-row against Grenoble.

Castres´ scrum-half Rory Kockott has been a revelation in the Top 14 and similar things may be said about Argentina´s Benjamín Urdapilleta. The former Harlequins back was crucial to Oyonnax winning promotion to the Top 14 last season and he has been playing well all season for the club again thus far. Against the much higher ranked Perpignan Urdapilleta was instrumental in scoring 17 points. He was not selected by Daniel Hourcade in Argentina´s squad nor was Agustín Figuerola who formed a former Pumas 9-10 combination with Urdapilleta. Oyonnax´s third Argentine player also started the match as Lucas González Amorosino played fullback. He is in the squad to face England next Saturday.

A narrow match in the French captial ended round eleven with the Parisians dong enough to win an ugly contest at the Stade Jean Bouin. USA Eagles back-rower Scott LaValla started at 7 and joined the Argentine-Italian, Sergio Parisse in the back-row. Both players are to be in international action in November with Parisse, like Castrogiovanni, already having earned 98 test caps. Bayonne had two Argentine players with Santiago Fernández starting at inside centre and former Puma Martín Bustos Moyano playing on the right wing. Bustos Moyano kicked three goals.

1 Toulon 32
2 Montpellier 32
3 Clermont 31
4 Paris 31
5 Toulouse 31
6 Perpignan 28
7 Grenoble 28
8 Racing Métro 27 
9 Brive 27
10 Castres 27
11 Bordeaux 21
12 Oyonnax 21
13 Bayonne 21
14 Biarritz 12

* Play-Offs Zone
* Relegation Zone

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