French rugby has been at the forefront of the rugby world this week. France were announced as the host nation for the Rugby World Cup in 2023 in a surprising turn of events. But domestically, the Top14 round 10 fixtures resumed with French rugby well and truly under the spotlight.
Here’s all you need to know from the weekend’s action:
Clermont 39-18 Lyon
With both teams’ recent form, no one quite expected a result as so comprehensive. Lyon never really looked a team setting the pace at the top and David Strettle’s return from injury made light work of their defence. A try on his return, as well as a double for flyer Alivereti Raka, put Clermont well and truly on top.
Round ten also highlighted a league blighted by ill discipline. A red card for newcomer Loni Uhila dampened a strong display for the hosts. It was a win nonetheless – only their fifth of the campaign and second in their last five. The result could prove a real turning point in Clermont’s season.
Likewise for Lyon, a second loss on the bounce, could prove a cause for concern especially with teams gaining ground below.
Bordeaux 33-23 Agen
Fresh from his winning performance with the French Barbarians against the New Zealand Maori, Matthieu Jalibert (see main picture) put in an outstanding display. The 19-year old amassed 23 of Bordeaux’s points tally, taking opportunities as they arose like a seasoned pro.
Jalibert’s composure in front of goal is rapidly taking him to new heights. The exposure in a league where young French players have often been outcast, will only see him promoted to Les Bleus as a matter of when and not if.
Being part of the squad that won 19-15 against the Maori, Jalibert looked a confident and assured fly half. His audacious drop goal on eighty minutes denied Agen a worthy losing bonus point.
Agen once again excited at times but failed to go the full eighty. Home form will count for everything in the battle at the bottom.
Castres 31-15 La Rochelle
La Rochelle recorded only their third loss of the season and were stunned as Castres raced out of the blocks. Full back Julien Dumora gave La Rochelle’s defence too much to think about. A try after just two minutes opened the floodgates for Castres.
— Adrien #ADP Saison10 (@adriadpsaison10) November 18, 2017
Dumora’s form has contributed heavily to Castres’ recent ascent in the league. Only when they were 21-3 down did La Rochelle start to play seriously. It was too little too late for a side widely tipped to land the Top14 title this season.
Another win to Castres’ tally moves them to within touching distance and only five points off the top three.
Pau 34-15 Brive
Despite having world class talent in the ranks at Pau; including Colin Slade and Conrad Smith, they just haven’t quite got the results much were expecting. However, against Brive, they registered their biggest win of the season.
All was going to plan for the home side until the very end of the game. A fracas between a number of Pau and Brive players left the referee with no option but to red card those involved. Thomas Bianchin (Pau) and Mike Tadjer (Brive) were both sent from the field for throwing punches. Despite the on field antics, Pau looked impressive against a Brive side who can still be considered one of the ‘performing sides’ in the league.
— Minute Rugby (@MinuteRugby) November 18, 2017
Montpellier 32-22 Toulouse
Even without Fijian flyer Nemani Nadolo [on International duty], Montpellier’s try scorers continue to lineup in his absence. Joe Tomane stepped up nicely, and put the home side in a commanding position. His try helped Vern Cotter’s men to a bonus point win, and their third victory in a row.
For Toulouse, Zack Holmes mustered 17 points for his side, but their ill discipline proved costly. Losing two players to the bin for professional and cynical infringements was frustrating to watch. With Lyon falling at Clermont, Montpellier capitalized smartly, and leapfrogg the southern French side into top spot.
Stade 39-35 Oyonnax
Bottom side Oyonnax pushed Stade all the way. Their hard work rewarded with a losing bonus point, after a superb performance in arguably the fixture of the round.
Oyonnax touched down five times, but the talking point was more about Ben Botica’s poor kicking form. Had the fly half slotted the three missed kicks, the result could have had a totally different outlook. However his 16 points were still invaluable, in securing that losing BP.
Conversely, Stade’s Tony Ensor put in an incredible man of the match performance. Ensor topped the stats in clean breaks (7), defenders beaten (8) and metres gaines (151). Along with two tries, he topped off another profitable result for the Parisian side.
Toulon 29-40 Racing 92
With key players missing from both sides due to international duty, neither team held back in an incredible performance. Four tries apiece, including a first for former All Black Malakai Fekitoa, was one of many highlights. That included a 10th of the season for Chris Ashton. Patrick Lambie meanwhile, kept Racing ahead with an outstanding 20 points for his side.
Equally as impressive, both Ben Tameifuna and Edwin Maka were instrumental in carrying ball over the advantage line. They consistently gave front-foot ball to the team which unequivocally gave them the capacity to win the game.
In doing so, they earnt their first away victory in two months.
@top14rugby Round 10 complete, and the leading teams switch places. @RugbyMHR holding a game advantage, better points differential – all essential to staying at the top of the list @LWOSRugby @AaronTillyer pic.twitter.com/zGXsOaBApd
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) November 21, 2017
Top14 Round 10 resulted in a number of movers in the league table. Montpellier took over at the top with Lyon and Racing moved into the top four.
Clermont’s season may have just turned around after their comprehensive victory, but round eleven could prove tricky with a trip to Oyonnax. Racing against Montpellier could well be the tie of the round