The Top14 Round 13 action resumed, after some thrilling European Club championship encounters. A double victory for Clermont highlighted their inconsistent league and European campaigns so far this season.
Whether they could follow up their impressive displays was a different matter, and Pau would definitely have something to say about it.
Here’s all you need to know from the weekend’s action:
Racing 23-19 Toulouse
Racing followed up their Round 12 loss to Stade, with a closely fought victory against Toulouse. Sandwiched in between, they picked up a win and a loss in the Champions Cup.
In a rare Friday night game in the Top14, Racing had to contend with the reliable boot of Thomas Ramos – the league’s deadliest kicker. The 14 points for Ramos and a Yoann Huget try registered a losing bonus point for Toulouse. Whereas Racing’s Teddy Ibraren was a match for the accuracy of Ramos; having replaced Maxime Machenaud early on.
A victory for the Parisians momentarily elevated them to equal points with Montpellier in second. Toulouse, however, have to now contend with the likes of Castres, Toulon and Clermont overtaking them on the table, and leaving Toulouse now balance in the middle of the pack.
Agen 27-13 Brive
Agen secured only their fourth victory of the league campaign, all having come on home soil. In doing so, the hosts pushed ahead of Brive into twelfth place and relative breathing space above the bottom.
Agen’s Jake McIntyre was outstanding in attack. The fly-half kept his side on the front foot thought and helped restrict Brive to only three points in the second half.
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Les mots de @simongillham, président du @CABCLRUGBY, après l'embûche de Noël à Agen. Brive est à nouveau relégable #SUACAB #FBSport https://t.co/lQWnK7f7hp pic.twitter.com/dEbSxLviOb
— France Bleu Limousin (@FBLimousin) December 23, 2017
Brive’s woeful season continues and at the halfway point they are still without an away win in all competitions since April. Their attack has failed to take off and only two players have scored more than two tries this season – Benito Masilevu and Karlen Asieshvili both with just three.
Bordeaux 29-19 La Rochelle
A dominant Bordeaux side surprised a few with an outstanding victory against the league leaders. Even with 14 men [following Jean-Baptiste Dubie’s red card] the hosts restricted a strong La Rochelle side from scoring.
— France Bleu Gironde (@Bleu_Gironde) December 23, 2017
Defensively, Bordeaux were impenetrable, with Jandre Marais and Cameron Woki leading from the front, with 30 tackles between them. In attack, fly-half Mathieu Jalibert kept the score out of La Rochelle’s grip. 19 points for the 18-year old in another display that is quickly establishing his prowess at the top level.
La Rochelle followed up their loss to Wasps in the Champions Cup, with a fifth defeat of the season. Fortunately for La Rochelle, their home form is keeping them in contention at the top. The resulting loss meant Montpellier had the chance to overtake and snatch top spot.
Montpellier 38-17 Lyon
Montpellier took full advantage of La Rochelle’s slip at Bordeaux, with a stunning bonus point win against Lyon. Timoci Nagusa’s hat-trick of tries well and truly gave Vern Cotter’s men full control of the tie. Their dominance in attack caught Lyon napping, condemning the visitors to a surprising fifth straight defeat in the league.
Having graced the summit of the league, Lyon’s unlikely demise continues to see them fall further down the table. With only one win in seven in all competitions, Lyon desperately need their injury list to subside so their season doesn’t falter too early.
Whereas Montpellier’s double-victory over Glasgow Warriors in Europe, adds to their unbeaten home run this season.
Pau 22-21 Clermont
Clermont’s continued inconsistency in the league threatens to pull the plug on the defence of their title. After two outstanding wins against Saracens in the Champions Cup, the holders lost out to a late Tom Taylor penalty. Clermont’s away form is beginning to cast doubt over the likelihood of a second successive league title.
This narrow sixth away loss of the season keeps them in a mid-table battle.
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) December 23, 2017
However, Pau’s fortunes may just be turning. Two successive league and European victories could be the catalyst for a run of form, as the home straight beckons in 2018. With the absence due to injury for Clermont flyer Alivereti Raka, Pau took full advantage, winning 22-21 and advance above Clermont into ninth place.
And great way for fans; and players, to celebrate the festivities of the season after the Top14 Round 13 action.
Castres 28-6 Stade Français
Castres rocket up to third with a bonus point victory over Stade. A sixth straight victory for Castres is an incredible turnaround – having flirted with the bottom of the table early on in the campaign. Head coach Christophe Urios, who some say is closely linked with the France national team coaching role, continues to push his side towards the top of the table. A Thomas Combezou double sunk Stade into their first try-less performance since September.
Despite their league woes, Stade continue to flourish in the Challenge Cup, sitting second to Edinburgh on 12 points. However, Stade’s inconsistency could prove their downfall, despite registering wins against Racing, Montpellier and La Rochelle already this season.
Conversely, Castres sit just one point behind La Rochelle now in third place.
Toulon 49-25 Oyonnax
Toulon followed up their Champions Cup defeat to Bath, with a powerful attacking display. Six tries from six different scorers, including a fourth of the campaign for newcomer JP Pietersen, wrapped up the bonus point. 19 points from fly-half Anthony Belleau further increased his credentials as France’s no.1 fly-half.
Former All Black Ma’a Nonu replaced Chris Ashton after 70 minutes, and immediately caused havoc. The centre racked up 60 metres and two clean breaks that exhausted the Oyonnax defence late on. Despite leading 19-13 in the first half, Oyonnax couldn’t handle Toulon’s might and firepower off the bench.
A resulting tenth straight league defeat reinforced their stature as the ‘prime contender’ for relegation.
Top14 Round 13 Wrap
Round 13 was another weekend of ‘movers and shakers’ in the table. Most surprisingly was how easily La Rochelle fell at Bordeaux. Similarly, Clermont’s inability to break the shackles of their mid-table rut could prove costly with teams above running clear.
► Votre équipe est-elle en haut du classement à l'issue de cette 13ème journée 🏆 ?
Un peu de repos aujourd'hui, et on repart à l’assaut des premières places dès samedi ! pic.twitter.com/mayRWZ4B82
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) December 25, 2017
However, Round 14 could give some teams hope a good start to the New Year. Castres will be confident of continuing their winning run and picking up a result at the Stade Marcel Michelin against Clermont.
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