French Top 14

Top 14 Game of the Weekend - Bordeaux Bègles vs La Rochelle

Top 14 Game of the Weekend - Bordeaux Bègles vs La Rochelle

Heineken Cup Champions La Rochelle travel to Bordeaux to tackle Bordeaux-Begles in the French Top 14 round 21 clash. Live streaming available on FloRugby

Mar 24, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Top 14 Game of the Weekend - Bordeaux Bègles vs La Rochelle

Bordeaux Bègles will welcome La Rochelle to the Stade Chaban-Delmas in the late kick-off this Saturday at 8:05 pm, for a match which will have significant ramifications in the overall race for the top four.

La Rochelle head into the contest sitting second in the league but is 11 points shy of runaway leaders Toulouse. However, they are just three points ahead of fifth-placed Bordeaux, meaning with a win, the home side could surge into the top four and displace Ronan O’Gara’s men.

For many weeks La Rochelle were lingering around the fourth spot but found fortune was on their side in early March when the shortfalls of their competitors caused them to catapult up the table.

In Round 20, they beat Pau, though they struggled to contain their relegation-threatened opponents and only secured a tight win following a silly penalty conceded by the opponents.

In truth, their 36-32 win was far from iconic. Yet crucially, Lyon and Stade Francais lost in the same weekend, meaning the doors were opened to La Rochelle, who cordially leapfrogged both sides to become the number one challenger behind Toulouse.

It’s hard to imagine this dream scenario playing out a second time around this weekend. Toulon’s trouncing of Stade was a shock, and so too was Castres’ beating of Lyon at home. You can expect both title challengers to be red-faced and raring to go come the weekend, especially since they’ve had two rest weeks to mull over their latest defeats.

La Rochelle, meanwhile, have had to sit on their hands and wait for rugby to restart, eager to build upon their three-game unbeaten run in the Top 14. Though it’s perhaps important to point out that those wins were against three of the teams in the bottom four.

Standing in their way in round 21 is a much sterner challenge. Bordeaux Bègles will take some beating and have plenty of incentive heading into the fixture, acutely aware that with a win, they can push into a secure playoff spot.

A major cause for concern for them will be the fitness and availability of Matthieu Jalibert, who was hurt in a tackle during a France training session and subsequently missed their final two Six Nations fixtures.

However, they will have centre Yoram Moefana back as he returns from international duty.

The main attraction heading into the tie will be Argentinian winger Santiago Cordero, who is in scintillating form, having scored five tries in his last two appearances, including a hat-trick against Perpignan.

La Rochelle, too will be banking upon the return of their French stars, namely club captain Grégory Alldritt, man-mammoth Uini Atonio and centre Jonathan Danty, who was in imperious form against England and Wales, despite just coming back from a knee injury.

The trio’s return will ease the pressure on fly-half Antoine Hastoy, who scored 26 of La Rochelle’s 36 points in the last round. Even so, O’Gara will be banking upon a big performance from his ten to ensure they contain Bordeaux and keep the scoreboard ticking.

This ought to be a fascinating matchup between two sides vying for a spot in the top four. Yet it’s made even more intriguing by their slightly misleading form. Bordeaux, much like La Rochelle, has been feeding off vulnerable prey, beating three of the bottom five to also go three games unbeaten.

But now they must both front up to a genuine test which could determine the trajectory of their seasons. 

Written by Stefan Frost