French Top 14

FloRugby's French Top 14 Game Of The Week - Montpellier vs Castres

FloRugby's French Top 14 Game Of The Week - Montpellier vs Castres

French Top 14 Rugby game of the week, as selected by the FloRugby writing team sees Montpellier and Castres clash in a potentially season-altering game.

Apr 14, 2023 by Philip Bendon
FloRugby's French Top 14 Game Of The Week - Montpellier vs Castres

On the face of it, the Saturday afternoon clash between Montpellier and Castres is a standard matchday fixture of Round 22. But if you look a bit closer, you will find a contest layered with promise and payoff that could just be the diamond in the rough.

Incidentally, these two foes met in the Top 14 final last season – in which Montpellier prevailed to win their maiden league title. Since then, both have endured fairly forgettable seasons, filled with disappointment and unfulfilled promises.

After losing Handre Pollard in the summer, Montpellier have struggled to recreate the form of the previous campaign and now find themselves languishing in the middle of the table. Few give them any hope of retaining their title but, even so, the Cistuses have just endured a pivotal few weeks which could transform the trajectory of their season.

In their previous Top 14 tie, the reigning champions were staring down defeat against Perpignan until Paolo Garbisi stepped up and converted a last-minute penalty to tilt the game in their favour by a single point.

Riding the wave of that momentous moment, Montpellier then travelled to the South of England to face Exeter Chiefs in the Champions Cup quarter-finals. For 50 minutes the French side looked in control but then disaster struck, as Zach Mercer was shown red for a high tackle (incidentally the red would be later rescinded).

With a man down, Montpellier demonstrated extraordinary resolve to not only stay in the match, but force extra time, following another last minute Garbisi penalty.

As the going got tough, every man in the squad stepped up, not least Louis Carbonel who produced some sublime individual displays of attacking running off the bench. In the end Montpellier were tipped to the finish line, but the performance they put in was nothing short of astonishing.

If they present themselves in a similar manner on the field against Castres, they could easily be staring down a bonus-point win, which could have huge ramifications in the overall hunt for a playoff spot. Indeed, Montpellier are currently ninth but are only four points shy of sixth placed Toulon. 

On the other side you have Castres, a resurging beast who plummeted from the lofty heights of the Top 14 final down to the wrong end of the table, where they continue to flirt with relegation.

Their poor run of form eventually led to the axing of head coach Pierre-Henry Broncan in February, after a humbling by La Rochelle. His replacement Jeremy Davidson foresaw the tough task ahead but has hit the ground running, winning two of his first three games in charge, including a shock dub against lead leaders Toulouse.

That revival of form has edged Castres closer to safety and another win could pull them apart from the other three endangered clubs. For now though, they remain embroiled in a bare knuckle brawl with Brive, Perpignan and Pau.

At the moment they sit eleventh in the table and while they are unlikely to leapfrog Clermont, who lie above them, another win this weekend could edge the club into an unlikely hunt for a playoff spot, and reduce the gap to Montpellier to just three points with a bonus-point win.

Of course, Castres will still feel embittered by the heart-breaking defeat they suffered in the Top 14 final, at the hands of Montpellier, and any opportunity to exact revenge will be duly appreciated. But in truth Davidson’s men have bigger things to worry about than leveling scores. Relegation will still be at the forefront of their minds as they gear up to grace the GGL Stadium turf.

While Castres are a formidable foe when at home, their travelling form has been decidedly less convincing. Therefore, as they journey to face Montpellier, a tall task stands in front of them.

Montpellier will still be reeling from the heartbreak of their Champions Cup exit and so expect them to come out enraged and intent on winning, which is why Flo Rugby anticipates Montpellier will eventually come away with the victory.