Home advantage meant nothing for Lyon and Castres, as they overcame Toulon and Toulouse respectively, in their Top14 Barrages to book their places in the 2017/18 semi-finals.
Lyon will take on Montpellier; while Castres will face Racing, to determine who will make it to the Top14 grand final at the Stade de France, on Saturday June 2.
Top14 Barrages #1 Toulon 19 Lyon 19
It took 102 minutes of rugby to decide this game’s fate. Lyon’s two tries to Toulon’s one being the difference between a semi-final place [match de barrage] and defeat in Top14 knockout rugby.
During the game, both sides looked evenly matched until a spate of chances for Toulon’s record try scorer Chris Ashton were thrown away. Despite dropping the ball twice close to the try line, the Englishman did eventually cross for his 24th of the season.
Toulon could have pulled away, but Lyon’s resilience held firm. A score for Toby Arnold kept the visitors in contention before an audacious line break from Dylan Cretin carved open the Toulon defence.
So with the scores drawn at full time, neither side could break the deadlock in the extra 20 minutes of play. By rights, Lyon’s extra try proving the difference in their first ever barrage game, and they progress into a first Top14 phase final (semi-final).
Top14 Barrages #2 Toulouse 11 Castres 23
It wasn’t quite as equally contested in the second barrage fixture. Castres opened up the scoring and didn’t look back from there. Armand Batlle scoring both of Castres’ tries. Some good work and power in the loose allowed him to pick up his 13th and 14th tries of the season. Batlle now becomes his side’s leading try scorer ahead of their semi-final with Racing on Saturday.
Toulouse played catch-up for the majority of the game. They did get a look in midway through the second half. Only moments later Jody Jenneker was shown a red card for punching and thus setting up a nervy final quarter.
However, Toulouse failed to capitalise on the extra man, and Castres held out for a well deserved victory.
2017/18 French Top14 Semi-finalists confirmed
Both Lyon and Castres dispelled the notion of home advantage against sides who have had good seasons in their home stadiums. Toulon’s unbeaten run at home coming to an end at the hands of Lyon.
Réservez vos places!
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) May 19, 2018
It therefore means Lyon will face Montpellier in the first semi-final on Friday night. The tie will be played in Lyon, but the hosts will be wary of the manner in how they progressed past Toulon. In fact, they will need to be at their best, to quell the Montpellier surge.
In the second semi-final; to be played on Saturday, Racing will take on Castres for a spot in the final. Also played in Lyon, Racing will be looking to avenge their Champions Cup final loss to Leinster – in the hope of securing silverware this season.
Surely, Castres will be labelled as underdogs but given their performance at Toulouse, will be out to ‘spoil the Parisian party’.
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