Saturday, April 25, 2015

Top 14: Americas Exports - Round 23

Photo Rugby Rama
With three rounds of the regular season yet to play the Top 14 season continues to defined by competitiveness and unpredictability. There is no clear odds-on-favorite team to win and places for the barrage play-offs remain wide-open. Further down there continues to be an ongoing battle to avoid relegation as realistically any side from seventh or lower is far from being safe from avoiding the drop. The fixtures this weekend in France were another to feature players from the Americas, the only region yet to be allocated hosting rights to a Rugby World Cup. 

Paris 12-21 Toulouse
Round 23 got underway on Friday evening with Le Clasico between the Stades in Paris. Year after year the fixture was tournament defining over the 2000-2010 decade. Since then, however, both teams have fallen away with the likes of Clermont, Toulon and Castres enjoying success. Toulouse, though, made a big statement on Friday by winning big in the French capital. The southern French club is now a real contender for the title. Involved from the bench for Toulouse was former Puma Patricio Albacete. 

La Rochelle 32-29 Toulon
The opening Saturday fixture saw first playing tenth away and it was the home team that completed a hard-fought victory to remain three points clear of the relegation zone. The importance of this result will become clear over the coming weeks as La Rochelle still must get points from it's remaining matches against Lyon, Racing Métro and Bayonne. Argentine Leandro Cedaro started for La Rochelle and Martín Castrogiovanni did so for Toulon. Both players are capped by Italy. Featuring off the bench was Puma Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe. 

Bayonne 42-33 Grenoble
Heading into the match in the relegation zone Bayonne had no choice but to win the match and win well. The Basque club did so by scoring six tries to three but with both Brive and Castres also winning the club remains in the relegation zone, albeit only just. Grenoble's falling-away in the second half of the season has been such that the club is now just one point outside of the relegation zone. Grenoble now has crunch home matches against Clermont and Toulouse before facing Lyon away. It is an easier path that that awaiting Bayonne who face Montpellier and Bordeaux away. Involved for Bayonne v Grenoble were  Santiago Fernández, Benjamín Macome and Martín Bustos Moyano. Fernández landed ten points from fly half while Bustos Moyano converted his own try. 

Brive 15-10 Montpellier
A theme throughout the season has been the competitiveness of Brive at home. The club has not been kind to visitors and this continued on Saturday as a strong Montpellier side was unable to compete to the expected level and returned home with all thoughts on completing a strong home win on May 09 in round 24 against Bayonne. So close is the competition that the Jake White coached team is ten points outside of the relegation zone yet six points behind the play-offs. 

Lyon 22-37 Bordeaux
Stuck at the bottom of the table and likely to be relegated is Lyon. With three rounds remaining Lyon is twelve points behind making it's remaining games all must win matches. The prospect is very much a real possibility as Lyon's remaining fixtures are Oyonnax away followed by La Rochelle and Grenoble at home. Bordeaux, in contrast is tied with Montpellier and remains a strong contender for the barrage play-offs. Involved in the match today were Juan Manuel Leguizamón and Francisco Goméz Kodela. 

Oyonnax 21-16 Racing Métro
Few teams are able to complete two victories in a single season over Racing Métro. Oyonnax, however, completed the double with a home victory today. The star performer for Oyonnax was former Puma Benjamín Urdapilleta (pictured above) who kicked seven penalties to score all of his team's points. Starting for Racing Métro was Juan Imhoff who scored the only try of the match. Pumas second-rower Tomás Lavanini also received game time for the visitors. The result sees Oyonnax moving ever closer to an unlikely play-offs performance. The eastern French team is now just one point behind Racing Métro and has a six point advantage ahead of both Bordeaux and Montpellier. 

Castres 31-10 Clermont
European Champions Cup finalists Clermont joined Toulon in failing to win against lowly opposition this weekend. Both teams fielded under strength lineups as they rested players ahead of the final set to be played next Saturday in London. This assisted both La Rochelle and Castres but neither was, nonetheless, expected to win. With Castres having been bottom of the table for much of the season the club contracted former club man and Puma Mauricio Reggiardo as coach. The prop has helped turn the season around but the team is not yet out of danger as Brive at home and both Toulon and Racing Métro away are the remaining fixtures. Starting for Castres was Uruguayan Rodrigo Capó Ortega while Puma Ramiro Herrera was a replacement. 

Racing Métro
La Rochelle

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