Sunday, May 17, 2015

Top 14: Americas Exports - Round 25

The penultimate round of the French domestic competition, the Top 14 was played this weekend. It was another round of professional rugby featuring a host of players from the Americas. With Japan having been allocated hosting rights to Rugby World Cup 2019 only the Americas remains as a region never to have had the opportunity. Argentina 2023 looms as a strong option and the contribution of players from that country and others in the region have been substantial for the sport. With one rounds of the Top 14 remaining Lyon have been confirmed as trading places with Pro d2 winners Pau while either Bayonne or Brive will be dropping to the second division in place of Agen or Mont de Marsan, who will contest the Pro d2 final in Toulouse next Sunday.  

The surprise package of the season, Oyonnax, continued marching towards a first ever appearance in the play-offs with a convincing home win over Lyon. The win sees Oyonnax now just 80 minutes away from booking a place in both barrage and the European Rugby Champions Cup. For Lyon the loss spelt relegation with the club officially bottom of the table this season. Running the show for Oyonnax was Benjamín Urdapilleta. The former Puma scored 18 points including a try. Francisco Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro received game time for Lyon. 

The relegation threatened Grenoble planned well ahead of time to topple Toulouse. Having sacrificed last weekend's fixture Grenoble had fresh players for the home match and succeeded in collecting four competition points to sit five points outside the relegation zone. One point away to Lyon next weekend would be sufficient to avoid relegation. 

The prospect of there being no Basque team in the Top 14 next season draws closer as Bayonne are in 13th position heading into the final round. To avoid relegation Bayonne need to finish one place higher. Heading into the final round Bayonne has one less point than Brive. Bayonne host La Rochelle next weekend while Brive take on Stade Français. Former Puma Francisco Goméz Kodela played tighthead prop for Bordeaux while Santiago Fernández and Martín Bustos Moyano both started for Bayonne. Bustos Moyano scored thirteen points including a try. All three Argentine players are outside chances for World Cup selection. 

A must-win match for both teams saw Castres escape from jail to officially avoid relegation. Having been at the basement of the standings for much of the season Castres is now safe while Brive could be set to be relegated for a third time in the professional era. Leading Castres was Uruguayan Rodrigo Capó Ortega in the second-row while Puma Ramiro Herrera entered from the bench in the 50th minute. Both are expected to play in this year's World Cup. 

The mission of avoiding relegation has La Rochelle now sitting in ninth position, just a single point behind Montpellier. Like Castres the club is now safe from relegation. For Racing Métro the draw means the club is tied with Bordeaux for sixth position. With a home fixture v Castres next season a place in the barrage and European qualification appear plausible. Argentine Leandro Cedaro, who is capped by Italy, started in the second-row for the home side. Pumas Juan Imhoff and Tomás Lavanini did so for Racing Métro. 

After a six year absence Stade Français Paris is back in the French play-offs. The capital city side completed an impressive home win against Montpellier to give the Mediterranean side serious trouble as it is now five points outside of the play-offs zone. The Gonzalo Quesada coached side now faces Brive away in a match that, if successful, will see the Parisians skip barrage and also secure a place in the European Rugby Champions Cup. Involved for the home side was USA back-rower Scott LaValla. 

Clermont 22-19 Toulon
In a rematch of the recent European Rugby Champions Cup Final Clermont looked for revenge against Toulon in the round's final match on played this evening. The match, however, was one without the same quality due to both teams playing bench warmers in most positions to enable the starters rest ahead of the final round and the subsequent Top 14 play-offs. In winning Clermont went joint top of the table heading into the final round.

#
Team
Pts
1
Toulon
71
2
Clermont
71
3
Paris
70
4
Toulouse
66
5
Oyonnax
62
6
Bordeaux
60
7
Racing Métro
60
8
Montpellier
55
9
La Rochelle
54
10
Castres
52
11
Grenoble
52
12
Brive
48
13
Bayonne
47
14
Lyon
37

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