2023 Castres Olympique vs Stade Rochelais

Check Out Five Talking Points From The Return Of The Top 14

Check Out Five Talking Points From The Return Of The Top 14

As international rugby entered its rest week, attention redirected to league rugby. In particular, the restart of the Top 14.

Feb 20, 2023 by RugbyPass
Check Out Five Talking Points From The Return Of The Top 14

As international rugby entered its rest week, attention redirected to league rugby. In particular, the restart of the Top 14.

There were plenty of talking points that emerged from an eventful weekend of action. 

Castres’ long-standing win record at home came to an abrupt end, Perpignan vacated the bottom of the table and Toulon beat the league leaders in a fiery clash.

There even was a last-minute winner in the mix.

La Rochelle Ends Castres’ Long Unbeaten Run At Home

La Rochelle put in a disciplined performance to beat Castres 32-17, bringing an end to the home side’s impressive unbeaten record at Stade Pierre Fabre.

The win was La Rochelle’s first in three league matches and keeps the squad just within the top 4. 

For Castres, the result brought an end to a 30-match unbeaten domestic home record, which dates back to Dec. 22, 2020.

It means last season’s finalists remain 11th, tethering close to the drop and needing to rediscover their away form, if they are to stand any chance of escaping relegation.

For Ronan O’Gara, the spectacle was far more pleasing, as he watched his men surgically dismantle their opponents, aided by Antoine Hastoy’s six successful penalty kicks.

Tries from UJ Seuteni and Joel Sclavi helped pull the European champions clear, in what quickly became a comfortable Saturday stroll for the visitors.

“It was important to win after losing our last two games,” La Rochelle fullback Brice Dulin told Canal Plus after the game. “We were consistent for 80 minutes, despite the tries we conceded. In away games, you have to be pragmatic, and we did everything right.”

The return of Jonathan Danty and Pierre Bourgarit from injury also was a welcomed sight for traveling fans, with the former set to join the French squad ahead of their upcoming Six Nations clash with Scotland.

Toulon Beat Table-Topping Toulouse, Despite Early Red Card

Toulon outclassed Top 14-leading Toulouse 17-6 in a scrappy contest that was defined by red cards and hot-headedness.

The hosts started the better of the two, edging in front after Facundo Isa charged through a huge hole in the Toulouse defense to score. 

But, just as Franck Azema’s side appeared to take control, disaster struck, as Sergio Parisse was given his marching orders for an illegal spear tackle with just over 30 minutes played.

The 39-year-old had little cause for complaint, having launched opposing center, Pierre-Louis Barassi, head first into the ground.

With that man advantage, Toulouse had plenty of opportunities to reduce the deficit, but an uncharacteristically off kicking display from Melvyn Jaminet kept them at arm’s reach. 

Eventually, frustrations boiled over, and a scuffle broke out between Toulon winger Jiuta Wainiqolo and Toulouse’s Rynhardt Elstadt at the 73 rd minute mark.

The South African forward was shown red for shoving Wainiqolo in the face, while the winger received a yellow for instigating the tussle.

Despite all the ill-discipline, the game did finish on a high, courtesy of Baptiste Serin, who darted through to score a 78th-minute try, putting the result beyond doubt.

Brive Slips To Bottom, As Perpignan Claims Crucial Win

Perpignan claimed its third win on the trot with a 49-29 battering of Pau at Stade Aime-Giral.

Fullback Tristan Tedder bagged a brace in the certified try-fest, contributing to the six total tries scored by Perpignan across the 80 minutes.

The Top 14 strugglers have hit a run of form at just the right moment, and their latest win means they move up to within touching distance of Pau.

Meanwhile, Brive succumbed to another defeat at the hands of Racing 92, sending them to the bottom of the table.

While the 34-24 score indicates a close contest, Racing never truly was threatened, therefore choosing not to bring on Finn Russell, who started the game on the bench.

Lyon Vs. Montpellier

Lyon cemented its status as a top-4 side with an overpowering performance against Montpellier.

The 31-21 victory was the fourth win in a row for Lyon and subjected the reigning champions to a third loss in as many matches.

A double from center Josiah Maraku, alongside tries from Baptiste Couilloud and Mickael Guillard, was enough to give Lyon all four points.  

Montpellier has struggled to recreate the magic of last season, and if they are not careful, they may slip outside of playoff contention entirely. Their primary concern right now will be the well-being of backrower Zach Mercer.

The Englishman was stretchered off during the game and transported to hospital following a nasty head clash with Theo William and Sebastien Taofifenua. Thankfully, he was conscious enough to give a thumbs up when exiting the ground.

Camille Lopez Heroics Give Bayonne Last-Minute Win

Last-minute heroics from Camille Lopez gave Bayonne another Top 14 win in what is fast becoming a season to remember for the newly promoted outfit.  

The successful penalty meant Bayonne emerged victorious, 29-26, maintaining an unbeaten run at home during league play.

Stade Francais had lost just one of its last six league games heading into the tie and led for more than 60 minutes, but in the end, had to watch on as their opponents entered a state of utter delirium.

Tries from hooker Facundo Bosch and second row Thomas Ceyte kept Bayonne in the tie, until the hosts found themselves in front with little time left on the clock. 

That lead fell away when Romain Briatte crossed over in the 77th minute, but Morgan Parra’s missed conversion meant the scores remained tied. That was until Lopez stepped up to take a shot at goal with the clock in the red. As his penalty sailed through the posts, Stade Jean-Dauger erupted.

“Today, God was with us,” Camille Lopez said after the game.

In the final fixture of the weekend, Bordeaux Bègles returned to their winning ways, beating Clermont 18-9.

Written by Stefan Frost