With the action continuing in France this weekend with round 6 of the TOP14, we have picked out two of the best clashes to keep an eye on this weekend.
Round 6 opens with an interesting contest as Toulon host Castres at Stade Felix Mayol. Toulon will be looking to bounce back following their loss to Bristol in the Challenge Cup but they will be wary of a possible backlash coming their way after Castres were obliterated 62-3 by La Rochelle in the latter’s backyard.
Whatever Castres brought to the table, La Rochelle devoured hungrily until there was nothing left. The dejected visitors trudged off the field at half-time with 3 points to their name versus their opponents’ 41. Things did not improve in the second stanza as La Rochelle kept the heat on, adding 22 more points to their tally in the biggest rout of the competition thus far.
With that game in mind, it seems easy to write-off Castres against Toulon, although, from rock-bottom, the only way a team can go is up. Toulon’s most recent TOP14 encounter saw them emerge victorious against Montpellier, 25-21. It was an exciting spectacle in which Toulon eased off after a strong start, allowing Montpellier to mount a decent fight-back. Toulon were, in the end, deserved winners, however.
The writing on the wall does not become easier for Castres to look at when one considers the last time these two teams met, which was in January of this year in Round 13, where Toulon dominated 43-3. Like last week, Castres could offer very little in a game that was all their hosts’. All things considered, Castres face an uphill battle tomorrow, but it is possible that, last week’s loss, new focus and determination has taken root in their camp which could prove useful.
The third fixture of Round 6 treats the viewer to a revered Paris derby as Stade Francais take on Racing 92 at Stade Jean-Bouin. Racing are just one point ahead of Stade Francais on the overall standings, though the latter have a game in hand, having enjoyed a bye last round while Stade were put to the sword by Clermont.
After drawing first blood, Stade let Clermont into the game and the men in yellow never looked back, running in a dominant performance with a 41-27 scoreline.
Meanwhile, Racing’s last outing in the Top 14 was also an unsuccessful one, as they folded 30-24 to the vibrant Toulouse. However, they have had bigger fish to fry of late, participating in the Champions Cup final last weekend in which they lost narrowly to Exeter Chiefs. What may worry Stade is that, with all the pressure of the Champions Cup now subsided, Racing will now feel significantly less burdened and ready to launch an assault on the Top 14 with the very talented team that they have.
It was Racing who came out on top when last these teams met, and quite convincingly at that. The Round 9 clash at Stade Jean-Bouin saw Racing post 25 points to Stade’s 9, the visitors managing three tries while defending their own line well enough to render Stade’s score purely courtesy of penalties.
While it looks like Racing may be the favourite, the Paris derby is always a good show.