Saturday, April 12, 2014

Top 14: Americas Exports Round 24 Wrap

Photo de Rugby
The race for the play-offs continues to heat up in France as the current Top 14 season is proving to indeed be the most competitive of all time. The headlines of Round 24 will be more about the bottom of the table than the top however as both Perpignan and Bayonne were able to win to put Oyonnax back in thirteenth position. The western French side is far from being relegated though with Grenoble´s concerning form having the club dropping further down the standings as it continues to struggle to win games in the second half of the season. A host of players from the Americas featured in round 24 and did so wth distinction to underline the strength of Argentina hosting the World Cup in 2023.

Clermont 23-11 Castres
Round 24 kicked-off on Friday evening with one match. It was a replay of the 2013 Semi Finals with Clermont Auvergne looking to avenge the shock defeat to Castres Olympique in Nantes. Also at stake was the five year undefeated home run. Clermont Auvergne has now won seventy-six home matches in a row and in defeating Castres the club retains its position in the top three of the competition. Involved in the match were players from North and South America. Canadian Jamie Cudmore played against Uruguay´s Rodrigo Capó Ortega in the second-row while uncapped Argentine tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera made his debut for Castres in what was his first appearance in professional rugby. Capó Ortega scored a first half try. 

Bordeaux 20-22 Toulon
The potential for Bordeaux-Begles to become a rival for Toulouse in the future is very much real. Like the city of Toulouse Bordeaux is not only a large French city but is also one with a solid rugby foundation and one that has been increasingly supporting Bordeaux-Begles. The club plays the majority of its home matches at the Stade Chaban Delmas, one of the stadiums from the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Rugby World Cup 2007. 33,162 spectators attended the fixture and involved in the match were two Pumas. Back-rower and captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe started for Toulon while fly half Nicolás Sánchez was a second half replacement for the home side which, despite losing, is still well placed to push for a place in the barrage play-offs.

Bayonne 24-19 Paris
The growth of larger city clubs has meant severe consequences for small city sides from France´s South-West. Bayonne is in danger of joining Biarritz in being relegated and needs as many competition points as possible to retain its status in the Top 14. Although the club went into round 24 in the relegation zone the team left it better placed with a win over the French capital´s Stade Français. The match was played in the Spanish city of San Sebastien and a notable crowd of 22,138 was on hand to see the Basque club rise in the standings. The match was another featuting Pumas with three in contention for the Rugby Championship involved. Winger Martín Bustos Moyano and fly half Santiago Fernández featured for Bayonne and back-rower Benjamín Macome did so for Stade Français. The star was Bustos Moyano who entered the match in just the 8th minute from the bench to kick Bayonne to victory by scoring all 24 points. USA back-rower Scott LaValla entered the game in the 64th minute replacing Macome.

Grenoble 30-36 Montpellier
Grenoble is approaching panic point as the club has gone from being well placed in the play-offs zone to now being just one match away from the relegation zone. Not only has the club failed to win matches but it has been losing by big scored. Montpellier had the win wrapped up early and allowed Grenoble back in the match due to relaxing. As such Grenoble was able to collect a bonus point which sees it sitting three points out of the relegation zone. Involved for the top of the table Montpellier was Argentina´s Nahuel Lobo who was a late replacement from the bench for Nicolas Mas.

Perpignan 22-12 Oyonnax 
The crucial match of the round was that of Perpignan v Oyonnax. With the clubs both well down in the standings it was a match that could possibly influence the future for the losing side. In a tight contest the home side game through in the end and did so by denying Oyonnax any competition points. Former Puma Benjamín Urdapilleta played fly half for Oyonnax and kicked nine points.

Racing Métro 37-7 Biarritz
Grenoble and Racing Métro has switched places in the second half of the season as the poor early season form of Racing Métro has seemingly ended. The club is now up into fourth position and ahead of notable sides including Castres and Toulouse. The bonus point win featured good performances from Argentine players. Juan Martín Hernández played fullback and converted a try while Juan Imhoff played on the left wing and scored one of the home sides five tries. Involved for Biarritz Olympique was former Argentine international Francisco Goméz Kodela who started at tighthead prop.

Toulouse 16-9 Brive
Captaining Toulouse in the final match of the round was former Pumas vice-captain Patricio Albacete. The man qho caused the downfall of former coach Santiago Phelan continued to be one of the best performing players in his position in global rugby. Toulouse won the match but the club was, again, far from impressive despite having a host of current and former French test stars. 

Racing Métro
CA Brive

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