French Top 14

Five Talking Points From Round 20 Of The Top 14 - Giants Flex Their Muscles

Five Talking Points From Round 20 Of The Top 14 - Giants Flex Their Muscles

French Top 14 Rugby Round 20 of the 2022/23 season recap, Toulouse beat Racing 92, Toulon rebound, La Rochelle end losing streak.

Mar 9, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Five Talking Points From Round 20 Of The Top 14 - Giants Flex Their Muscles

Round 20 of the Top 14 delivered a bounty of engrossing fixtures, with various results impacting the standings at both the top and bottom of the table.

Perpignan escaped the relegation zone with a vital win at home, while La Rochelle rose to second in the league after their rivals suffered shock losses on Saturday.

Yet more misery was heaped on Brive as they stay rooted to the base of the table and watched as fellow strugglers Castres rediscovered their home form.

Here are the five talking points from the latest installment of domestic French rugby.

Toulon obliterate title hopefuls Stade Francais

Toulon made amends for a disappointing loss to Clermont last weekend with a stirring 37-9 win against title hopefuls Stade Francais.

The visitors scored their only points of the game in the early exchanges as Joris Segonds slotted three penalties to give Stade a slender lead. However, an initial try from Duncan Paia'aua and a subsequent score from Cheslin Kolbe put Toulon ahead.

For the latter try, the South African winger brilliantly pounced on a loose pass from Paul Alo Emile, volleying it on the full before recovering possession to convert the lucky break. A penalty from Thomas Salles pushed Toulon further in front as they claimed a 20-9 advantage at the break.

Stade Francais had territorial opportunities in the second period but it was Toulon who had the final say, securing the try bonus-point in the final minutes of play when Cornell du Preez crossed over to cap off a memorable evening for the hosts.

The out of kilter performance from Stade Français at the Stade Mayol sees them drop to third in the table.

Plucky Perpignan beat Bayonne to escape relegation zone

Perpignan weathered a second half storm to beat Bayonne 34-27 at the Stade Aimé Giral and move out of the relegation zone.

The Catalans started brightly, securing a try bonus-point and 28-13 lead at the break, but had to endure a tense second half as Bayonne fought back to within reach of the lead. However, two penalties from Jake McIntyre left the result beyond doubt and put Patrick Arlettaz's men above Pau in the table.

As Perpignan edged a little closer to safety, Brive’s fortunes continued to plummet as they suffered a 28-7 loss to Bordeaux Bègles.

Argentinian winger Santiago Cordero followed up a hat-trick last week with two more tries on Saturday for Bordeaux, leaving Brive seven points shy of 13th placed Pau.

On target Hastoy helps La Rochelle climb to second after rivals suffer shock losses

La Rochelle ascended to second in the table after squeaking past strugglers Pau in a surprisingly entertaining fixture.

Ronan O’Gara’s men were far from their best and fought to contend with a resilient Pau, but in the end managed to come away with an invaluable 36-32 win.

The result was hugely important in the wider context of the league, as top four rivals Lyon and Stade Francais both suffered shock losses over the weekend, opening up an opportunity for La Rochelle to leapfrog both.

It all began with a fine finish from Fijian flanker Lepani Botia in the 18th minute, giving La Rochelle the lead.

Tries from Daniel Ikpefan, Clément Laporte and a two from Émilien Gailleton earnt Pau a losing bonus-point but was not enough to secure victory as ill-discipline plagued the hosts. Antoine Hastoy pounced on the opportunities presented to him by successfully kicking five penalties and also scored a try of his own to help propel La Rochelle to victory.  

Pau had the chance to turn the tide at the end but lost their shot at salvation when Jale Vatubua was penalised for a neck roll on Will Skelton. 

The loss sends Pau into the relegation zone as they now trail Perpignan by a single point.

Castres rediscover home form to topple high-flying Lyon

Castres rediscovered their home form to beat Lyon 27-22, bringing to an end their three-match domestic losing run.

In his second game in charge of the club, Jeremy Davidson led Castres to an important dub which saw a return to form at home – Castres had previously gone 30 matches unbeaten domestically at the Stade Pierre Fabre.

Captain Julien Dumora crossed the whitewash in Castres’ first attack before two penalties from veteran fly-half Benjamín Urdapilleta gave the home side a slender 13-10 lead at the half.

Another try from back rower Tyler Ardron and three more kicks from Urdapilleta was enough to claim the win and set alight the Stade Pierre Fabre at the final whistle.

Despite the win, Castres remain 11th in the league, just two points clear of Perpignan, and are still very much at the centre of the battle to avoid relegation.

Toulouse beat Racing 92 in Sunday night thriller

Toulouse extended their lead at the top of the table with a thrilling 39-35 win against Racing 92.

A double from winger Dimitri Delibes, who replaced the limping Arthur Retière after 18 minutes, helped Toulouse reach a try bonus-point before halftime.

They maintained their lead over Racing thanks to a second half score from scrum half Paul Graou, but looked in danger of losing it late when Vinaya Habosi crossed over for the hosts.

And then with three minutes remaining, Racing received a penalty while trailing by four. Finn Russell opted to kick for the corner but missed the mark, giving possession back to Toulouse and all but ending the contest.

In the other game of the weekend, Montpellier ended their six-game losing run with a healthy 34-6 victory over mid-table competitors Clermont. 

Written by Stefan Frost