The Top14 round 11 fixtures included some key battles for the top teams. Arguably the tie of the round, Montpellier’s trip to face Racing was to be a test for both sides as they look to gain ground ahead of the European competition matches; following round 12.
In a surprise result, Oyonnax were rewarded with a draw against Clermont. An upset to remember for ‘Oyo fans’ thanks to a sterling revival, led by Ben Botica and a ‘never say die’ attitude.
Here’s all you need to know from the weekend’s action:
Castres 20-19 Toulon
Toulon fell to Castres at a similar time last season, but at the weekend a fourth consecutive win for Castres condemned Toulon to their third loss on the bounce this season.
Despite Toulon leading for the majority of the game, it was Castres who were more decisive in taking the four points. Ben Urdapiletta could have extended his side’s winning margin following a number of missed kicks.
Toulon’s Malakai Fekitoa was outstanding – putting Toulon on the front foot, and constantly pressuring the Castres defence. Chris Ashton touched down for his 11th try of the season to become the league’s leading try scorer.
But for all their efforts, it wasn’t enough. A losing bonus point was all they left with and Toulon must improve next week.
La Rochelle 44-14 Pau
A dominant bonus point victory for La Rochelle against Pau kept pressure up at the top. Five tries for La Rochelle extends their unbeaten run at home in all competitions since May.
A Vincent Rattez double, as well as a try for former All Black Victor Vito, resulted in Pau slipping down to 10th in the league. In doing so, the current Top14 ‘Player of the Year’ Vito, he becomes La Rochelle’s top try scorer with five this year.
— Periodismo Rugby (@PeriodismoRugby) November 27, 2017
In what was a poor performance for Pau, another former All Black in Conrad Smith offered few positives. Smith touched down for his side, but it was all in vain. Pau’s away form continues to struggle. Only one win on the road in the league means home form will be doubley-important to avoid a relegation battle.
Agen 29-13 Stade Francais
Agen begin to move away from the bottom of the table, with an invaluable win over Stade. Agen’s home form could be significant in their quest to remain in the league. Having won their previous three home games in all competitions, Agen were deserved winners.
A Filipo Nakosi double set his side on the path to victory, even with Jake McIntyre missing kicks that could have extended their winning margin.
— KATHE- LEEN (@Kathleen4764) November 27, 2017
Stade’s mixed fortunes in the league this season sees them slip ever closer to the bottom. Their loss to Agen reduces the arrears to just four points. With Agen’s performances at home and Stade’s away form, it could be a matter of time before Stade fall below Agen.
Bordeaux 27-27 Brive
Despite an evenly matched game throughout, Brive will be the happier of the two sides; having not won against Bordeaux since 2015. However, Brive could have secured the victory in the dying stages.
A missed Gaetan Germain kick to goal should have given Brive the victory. Invaluable points to Bordeaux in the relegation battle with Oyonnax and Agen that will undoubtedly give them a boost ahead of the resumption of the European competitions.
Matthieu Jalibert followed up his exceptional performance in round 10, with 17 points with the boot. The young fly half takes his tally to 56 for the season, and continues to set Bordeaux on the path to the playoffs.
Oyonnax 32-32 Clermont
Ben Botica was the star of the show for Oyonnax, having come from 22-3 down against Clermont. 22 points for Botica denied a Clermont victory and elevated him to the league’s top points scorer. It’s the second draw of the season for the side bottom of the league following a round one draw against Toulouse. But with only one home win all season, points will be a valuable commodity in the fight to survive relegation.
It was a surprise result for Clermont. After a dominant display at Lyon in round ten, nothing short of a win would have sufficed for the reigning champions. Despite four tries they weren’t still unable to break down the resilience of the Oyonnax players. After eleven rounds, Clermont still have it all to do to catch up.
Racing 26-0 Montpellier
In light of Dan Carter announcing his move to Japanese side Kobe Steelers at the end of the season, it didn’t seem to affect Racing’s performance. A strong showing from Pat Lambie dictated Racing’s attack.
— Racing 92 (@racing92) November 27, 2017
Lambie will be joined by Scot Finn Russell next summer, after Russell announced he will be leaving Glasgow Warriors. However even with those internal changes due, a fourth consecutive league win has propelled the Parisian side to just outside the top three.
It was Montpellier’s worst performance of the season. A tryless display, their lead at the top of the ladder was cut short by La Rochelle’s win. Montpellier’s attacking prowess just couldn’t find the answers. Neither Aaron Cruden, Jessie Mogg or Joe Tomane could find a way through Racings’ formidable defence.
Lyon 9-17 Toulouse
Lyon succumbed to their second successive home defeat of the season. Zack Holmes and Thomas Ramos were both impressive for Toulouse, as they set their sights on the summit of the league.
Toulouse’s home form has kept them in contention, and the away victory at Lyon was only their second of the season. Despite missing players, Toulouse’s replacements restricted one of the most attacking teams to just three penalty kicks.
Lyon fielded a strong side – Frederic Michalak, Gael Fickou and Alexis Palisson all featuring – but all failed to have any impact. The loss means Lyon slip to third level along with Racing, followings La Rochelle’s victory at Pau in Top14 Round 11.
Round 11 was an interesting one, where the top two sides both lost. Conversely, the bottom three all picked up points.
#Top14 Standings after 11 Games;
•LaRochelle close gap on MHR
•Still 3-4 team relegation battle
•7th-3rd separated by 1game
•RCT stay 8th pic.twitter.com/2jRn7DIAGv
— #RugbyToulon (@rugbytoulon_) November 27, 2017
Perhaps more significantly is Racing’s steady rise – now level on points with Lyon in third. With key players still to return for R92, their form should continue to elevate them. Only four points adrift of Montpellier, who they taught a lesson to this weekend.
Have we seen the resurgence of the crowd favourites? Round 12 will truly prove ‘who is running hot’. Follow the match outcomes, here with Last Word on Rugby.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images