Saturday, March 22, 2014

Top 14: Americas Exports Round 22 Wrap

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JMH helped Racing Métro win away
Following the completion of the Six Nations Championship it is now the business end of the European club season. For most teams that means it is a vital time to collect bonus points to either reach the play-offs or avoid relegation. The race to do both in France continued this weekend as the unpredictability of the competition continued. Involved were players from four countries from the Americas - the last IRB defined region to be allocated the right to host a Rugby World Cup.

Clermont 22-16 Toulon
Clermont Auvergne hosted RC Toulon in the opening fixture of the round. It was the only match to be played on Friday and was of special interest as it was a top of the table clash. Involved for the home side was Canadian veteran international Jamie Cudmore who started the match. In losing Toulon is now tied with Montpellier. 

Paris 27-27 Toulouse
The Parisian side has been enjoying its best season since 2007-2008 and was looking to demonstrate this as best as possible in front of a near 80,000 supporters at the Stade de France on Saturday. The team coached by former Puma Gonzalo Quesada held a commanding 27-5 lead but, in a seven try thriller, let the game slip in the second half as Toulouse scored a try from the final play of the match to seal a 27-27 draw which was, remarkably, the same score from Uruguay v the USA played on the same afternoon. Featuring in the match was Puma Patricio Albacete who played 80 minutes in the second-row for Toulouse. A second Puma, Benjamín Macome, played 20 minutes for Stade Français.

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Bayonne 22-23 Bordeaux
The battle to avoid relegation is likely to continue until the final round. One team fighting for survival is Bayonne. The Basque club really needed to win at home against Bordeaux-Begles but, despite failing to do so, was still able to collect one competition point for losing by less than seven points. Starting for Bayonne was Puma Santiago Fernández who played inside centre and former Puma Martín Bustos Moyano who kicked two goals playing on the wing. Another goalkicker from Argentina, Nicolás Sánchez was on the Bordeaux bench. The win means that Bordeaux-Begles continues to close in on a possible appearance in the play-offs.

Castres 38-6 Brive
The reigning Top 14 champions, Castres Olympique, moved up to fourth position with an impressive home victory over Brive on Saturday. Former Uruguayan test captain Rodrigo Capó Ortega started the match for Castres. He did so despite his country being involved in a Rugby World Cup qualifier on the same day against the USA. Capó Ortega is expected to return to play for his country during the repercharge phase.

Oyonnax 8-22 Montpellier
Despite being in the relegation zone Oyonnax is a club which has been very strong all season at home. The club, though, was knock-over on Saturday by an impressive Montpellier - a club looking every bit like a contender for the Top 14 title this season. In failing to collect any competition points Oyonnax slips further behind the 12th placed Bayonne but Oyonnax does, nonetheless, have one match in hand. Starting for Oyonnax were three Argentine players. Former test scrumhalf Agustín Figuerola again formed a 9-10 combination with Benjamín Urdapilleta. Both players will be considered by Daniel Hourcade for international duty in June against Ireland and Scotland. Urdapilleta kicked a penalty in the match. Lucas González Amorosino, who will also be in the frame, for June played on the left wing. Nahuel Lobo was a replacement for Montpellier.

Perpignan 16-10 Biarritz
One of the two sides being relegated this season was confirmed as Biarritz lost away against Perpignan. The loss meant that Biarritz is now too far behind 12th place. Even if Biarritz were to win all remaining matches and collect bonus points it would still fall short. The lack of a budget to compete with bigger city sides has seen Biarritz fall to the unlikely position now of entering the second division. Long time servant and former French international Dimitri Yachvili spoke in sadness about relegation after the match. It was a sad day for traditionalists as it underlined that the guard has indeed changed forever and that nobody is safe. Biarritz becomes the latest small-town club from the south west to be relegated. Starting for Biarritz was Taku Ngwenya who played club rugby rather than test rugby for his country. Argentina´s Francisco Goméz Kodela was a replacement.

Grenoble 13-26 Racing Métro
At the midway point this season Grenoble was well placed and looking like having a realistic chance of appearing in the play-offs. Racing Métro, in contrast, was poorly placed and in need of significant improvement. The sides have since changed significantly with Grenoble now in 10th and Racing Métro in 7th, just one point outside of the play-offs for the time being. Starting at fly half for Racing Métro was Juan Martín Hernández. El Mago landed two drop goals for the winners. The match was moved to the Stade des Alpes, the largest stadium in Grenoble.
1 Clermont 64
2 Montpellier 61
3 Toulon 61
4 Castres 60
5 Paris 58
6 Toulouse 57
7 Racing Métro 56
8 Bordeaux 54
9 Brive 51
10 Grenoble 50
11 Perpignan 46
12  Bayonne 44
13 Oyonnax 39
14 Biarritz 24

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