Saturday, April 5, 2014

Top 14: Oyonnax rise out of Relegation Zone

Photo Sports Mole
Eastern French club Union Sportive Oyonnax Rugby celebrated an important home victory on Saturday evening to move ahead of two rivals sides in the Top 14. The club had been facing relegation but in defeating Union Bordeaux-Begles it is now in 11th position ahead of Perpignan, Bayonne and the bottom of the table Biarritz. The victory featured a key performance from former Puma Benjamín Urdapilleta who was one of four Argentine players in the match. 


The match was a round nineteen fixture which had to be postponed due to the field being deemed non-playable as a result of heavy rainfall saturating the playing surface. The match was one of two such instances with the round 17 match against Biarritz also having to be rescheduled. 

It worked out in favor of Oyonnax as the club had suffered injuries to a number of players including Benjamín Urdapilleta. The ten time capped former Puma was out of action for an extended period but with the matches being delayed he was able to feature in both. Urdapilleta kicked Oyonnax to victory over Biarritz and also impressed against Bordeaux-Begles in scoring sixteen points. 

The performance saw Oyonnax not only win the match and move up in the standings but for Urdapilleta it saw the left-footer move into fourth position in the standings for an individual player in the Top 14 this season. His six successful kicks at goal were two more than current first choice Pumas fly half Nicolás Sánchez. The Tucumán pivot started opposite Urdapilleta but was replaced at the start of the second half by Pierre Barnard who has been starting ahead of Sánchez this season. 

Barnard failed to spark Bordeaux-Begles as without Sánchez the team failed to score further points. It was a contrast to what had been a vey even first half with Sánchez and Urdapilleta exchanging penalties on multiple occassions after Oyonnax scored an early try through winger Silvere Tian. Oyonnax was not challenged in the second half which saw the club secure the win and four competition points. 

Playing inside Urdapilleta was former Argentine international scrumhalf Agustín Figuerola. Like Urdapilleta he was unable to make the senior squad for the first two editions of the Rugby Championship. Figuerola last played a test in 2010 but is the highest profile Argentine scrumhalf at the present point in time. Unlike the first and second choice options from 2012 and 2013, Martín Landajo and Tomás Cubelli, he is playing in a professional league and getting regular game time. 

The Oyonnax halves combination could well be used by Daniel Hourcade in June. Sánchez will also be in the frame as will Bordeaux-Begles fullback Joaquín Tuculet who did not face Oyonnax. While Tuculet missed out former Puma Rafael Carballo did feature as a 70th minute replacement. Carballo is to return to Argentina at the end of the season. Tuculet will likely be in the squad for June and the Rugby Championship.   

The performance from Urdapilleta is another case in point of him being the most consistent Argentine fly half playing professional rugby this season. In addition to Sánchez predominantly being on the bench Ignacio Mieres has been out of favor with Worcester, Juan Martín Hernández has mainly played fullback for Racing Métro, Santiago Fernández has switched back and forth from 10 to 12 for Bayonne and Marcelo Bosch has only played in the centres for Saracens. 

In winning the contest Oyonnax has moved ahead of both Bayonne and Perpignan to leave the relegation zone. With matches remaining against Perpignan, Toulouse and Brive the club is arguably placed in a better position than both Perpignan and Bayonne. Perpignan will face both Toulon and Clermont while Bayonne will be taking on Paris, Grenoble and Castres. The winner of Perpignan v Oyonnax next Saturday should secure its place in the Top 14 next season. 

1
Montpellier
66
2
Toulon
65
3
Clermont
65
4
Castres
62
5
Racing Métro
60
6
Toulouse
58
7
Bordeaux-Begles
58
8
Paris
58
9
CA Brive
55
10
Grenoble
50
11
Oyonnax
48
12
Perpignan
46
13
Bayonne
44
14
Biarritz
26

1 comment:

  1. The strategic map of who plays and who doesn't for the Pumas has changed considerably in regard to players in France. Patricio Fernandez, Cubelli, and Landajo are well in front of Urdapilleta and Figuerola.

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