One of France’s oldest and most decorated rugby clubs, Stade Francais, are falling ever closer to relegation to the ProD2. A Top14 Round 19 fixture away to Oyonnax looked favourable for the Paris-based side, but teams below them are starting to find form. Oyonnax, being no different, took the opportunity to seize all four points in their quest to stay in the French top fight.
Aaron Tillyer brings all you need to know from the weekend’s action:
Lyon 15-6 Toulon
Neither side could break down the other defensively and resulting in a tryless game. Two strong defensive displays meant it was the kickers that had the final say, with Lyon’s Michael Harris proving superior to his young counterpart in Anthony Belleau. Harris outscored Belleau five kicks to two. However the full force of Toulon’s attack was felt by Liam Gill, notching up 14 tackles in the process.
But a first win for Lyon in three attempts against Toulon will be a confidence boost. Toulon’s mixed bag of a season continues and with it a second tryless fixture of the campaign, a surprise given Toulon’s firepower. Lyon’s away form has faltered and with two away ties at Toulouse and La Rochelle to come, this victory could prove significant.
Agen 31-29 Montpellier
An incredible victory for Agen over the league leaders is only their eighth of the season in all competitions: a win that moves them above Stade Français into eleventh. Filipo Nakosi played a starring role – a try, 96 metres gained and five defenders beaten. Agen will be hoping Nakosi remains fit as the season draws to a close and they look to escape relegation.
Two players in devastating form over the past few weeks in France that I would like to see be included in the flying fijian squad June test 👉 Uwa Tawalo(Biarritz) and Filipo Nakosi(Agen) older bro of Josh Tuisova. Semi Radradra has already been ticked by coach John MacKee
— Samm 🇫🇯 (@holla_samm1) March 5, 2018
Similarly, Agen’s Gregory Fichta and Fulgence Ouedraogo put in an astonishing 38 tackles between them to deny Montpellier. Jarrad Hoeata’s red card for the away side didn’t help the cause, but Agen seized the initiative in the eight-try thriller.
Castres 27-29 Pau
Colin Slade’s man-of-match performance set the tone early on for Pau. His individual try – running through his opposite number was the catalyst for Pau’s fifth consecutive win in the league. Baptiste Presenti and Julien Tomas both added to Slade’s early heroics. Castres even led at the break – a seven point advantage wasn’t enough to stop Pau snatching the win.
— James Harrington (@Jamesonrugby) March 5, 2018
Having gone seven games unbeaten at the end of 2017, Castres are now one win from their last seven. A stark turnaround that could prove costly. Conversely, Pau join Toulon and Castres on 52 points and are now only five points away from third place. Pau seemed to have timed their run of form perfectly but whether they can continue their run followed intently.
Racing 92 17-13 Brive
Brive put up a brave fight against a side moving ever closer to top spot. They did leave Paris with a losing bonus point, a vital point that could make a huge difference in how the season’s end plays out. Two tries to one in favour of the Parisians secures their second place in the table. Three points now the difference between themselves and Montpellier in first. The leaders’ slip up at Agen gives the advantage to Racing.
Brive’s point significantly reduces the gap with Stade who had a hard time at Oyonnax. Only two points separate the sides with Brive looking more and more likely to survive a relegation battle that is bringing more sides into contention.
Bordeaux 19-25 Toulouse
Thierry Paura’s second half red card was the set back that arguably cost Bordeaux. Had they not been a man down, they could have gone above and beyond their three tries. Matching Toulouse in the try-scoring, Bordeaux are beginning to fall further down the table. Their loss further distancing themselves from Lyon in eighth place – now 15 points.
A fourth consecutive win for Toulouse keeps up the pressure on Racing who occupy second place. However a fourth consecutive loss for Bordeaux piles the pressure on with only seven games to play.
Oyonnax 33-27 Stade Francais
An incredible victory for bottom side Oyonnax was only their third league win of the season. Only two of which have come at home – the first against Agen back in September. Against Stade, Ben Botica epitomised Oyonnax’s desire in amassing 18 points. A Daniel Ikpefan double helped to deny Stade and condemn them to another loss.
More specifically a fifth straight loss that now puts Stade within touching distance of relegation. A vital four points for Oyonnax keeps both Brive (four points) and Stade (six points) within their sights. Round 20 could result in Stade falling into the bottom three for the first time this season. Oyonnax may just use the victory as the catalyst for the great escape.
Oyonnax leading this Top 14 relegation battle as Stade Francais missing just 3 of their 56 tackles but conceding 28 points
Ben Botica, James Hall and Hika Elliot on fire for the home side
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) March 4, 2018
Clermont 21-17 La Rochelle
Everyone at Clermont will be breathing a sigh of relief after a much needed home win against the once league leaders. Having now fallen down the pecking order, La Rochelle are now without a win in three games. Taking nothing away from Clermont, the home side were the better team. Peceli Yato kicked off the scoring in the opening exchanges. Yato being stretchered off in the second half a dampener on an otherwise positive display.
With whispers of relegation, unheard of in and around Clermont, a valuable four points allays any pressure for another week. They’ll be setting their sights on Bordeaux – only three points above to really give themselves breathing space over teams below them.
The final seven games look set to bring another exciting close to the French league. With Agen, Brive and Oyonnax all at one stage set to battle for relegation, but as the table suggests, all have a chance of staying up. Clermont and Stade are by no means safe.
At the other end, the inconsistencies of the top teams means there’s just no telling who will come out on top. Racing’s charge could well see them in contention, but Pau’s sensational run of form could even see them progress further. Round 20 will be under the microscope to see which teams have the mettle to handle the pressure.
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) March 4, 2018
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