Sunday, March 2, 2014

Top 14 Americas Exports - Round 21 Wrap

Juan Imhoff and Juan Fernández Lobbe
were named by L´Equipe in the team of the round. 
Round 21 of the Top 14 was another case of point in just how competitive the competition has proven to be this season. The pattern of matches being won by the team playing at home repeated itself despite the fact that the visiting sides were, in all but one match, ranked higher than the opposition. Unpredictability at both ends of the table continued as the fight to reach the play-offs and to avoid relegation is far from being over. In action were players from Argentina, Uruguay and the USA - three nations with Rugby World Cup experience from the only IRB defined region never to be allocated a Rugby World Cup.

Montpellier 19-10 Paris
The round started on Friday with one match as the second and third placed teams faced-off in Montpellier. The hard fought victory sees Montpellier move to within three points of the leading Clermont Auvergne while Stade Français have fallen from second position. None of the Parisian players for the Americas were involved while Montpellier was without all three of tis Pumas props. Maximilano Bustos missed the match and is expected to only be fit again in April. Juan Figallo is likely to return from injury this month.

Racing Métro 25-15 Castres
The up and down season of Racing Métro has seen the Parisian club dumped out of the Heineken Cup and with it a number of players earning big money have been questioned. A big performance was needed against last season´s French champions and Racing Métro delivered with Puma Juan Imhoff being the star. The Argentine winger scored the only two tries of the match as he touched down in the third and seventy-first minutes to put the club within three points of a place in the top six. Uruguayan veteran Rodrigo Capó Ortega ws also involved, starting in the second-row for Castres.

Bordeaux-Begles 26-16 Clermont Auvergne
Bordeaux-Begles emerged as a genuine contender for a place in the barrage play-offs after defeating competition leaders Clermont-Auvergne. Played at the Stade Chaban Delmas a crowd of 31,233 spectators were treated to an important result which sees the club not only move further clear of the relegation zone but also approach the top six. On the bench for the winning side was Puma Nicolás Sánchez who has been  unable to secure regular game time this season.

Brive 31-6 Grenoble
At the start of the season Brive was a club being shortlisted for relegation but the low-budget club has proven to be a fighter and with it not having been impacted by injuries it is now pushing for a possible playce in the barrage play-offs. In winning at home against Grenoble the clubs have traded positions with Brive now in eighth place. 

Toulon 64-10 Oyonnax
A tough assignment of facing the Heineken Cup champions in an away fixture was made all the more complicated by a lack of discipline. Oyonnax hooker Jody Jenneker was red carded in the first half which, in effect, ended the match as a contest. The South African could now face suspension. Involved in the match were four players from Argentina. Pumas captain Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe played the full 80 minutes on the side of the scrum for Toulon while three Pumas started for Oyonnax. The club´s 9-10 combinetion was Agustín Figuerola and Benjamín Urdapilleta. Both players are former Pumas who were not a part of the Daniel Hourcade squad that played in Europe last November. Also starting was Lucas González Amorosino who scored the only try of the match for the visitors. González Amorosino played fullback.

Toulouse 37-9 Perpignan
Toulouse is a club under fire. The most powerful team in the history of Europea rugby has failed to deliver this season and has turned multiple victories into staggering losses. Indeed last weekend the club representing the fourth largest French city blew a commanding early three tries to zero lead to lose against Castres. The club got it together against Perpignan as the home side completed a bonus point victory. Involved was Patricio Albacete with the Pumas second-rower playing 80 minues. The loss sees Perpignan sitting just seven points clear of the relegation zone and in grave danger as the thirteenth played Oyonnax has two matches in hand. 

Biarritz 8-11 Bayonne
The seventh and final match of the round was the Basque derby played in Biarritz on Sunday. Wityh Biarritz Olympique so far behind the club needed a win to avoid steering into the abyss of relegation. Bayonne was the winning side and as such the club has moved ahead of Perpignan while Biarritz remains bottom of the standings. Biarritz wilçl face Oyonnax and Perpignan over the coming two rounds. Should it not win both it will certainly be season over and a future in the second division. Both teams had players from the Americas. Starting at tighthead prop for Biarritz was former Puma Francisco Goméz Kodela while USA Eagles veteran Taku Ngwenya played on the right wing. Involved for Bayonne was Argentine international Santiago Fernández who played inside centre while former Puma Martín Bustos Moyano was on the bench.

Standings
1 Toulon 60
2 Clermont 60
3 Montpellier 57
4 Paris 56
5 Toulouse 55
6 Castres 55
7 Racing Métro 52
8 Brive 51
9 Bordeaux 50
10 Grenoble 50
11 Bayonne 43 
12 Perpignan 42
13 Oyonnax 35
14 Biarritz 22

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