La Rochelle lead covid-affected Top 14

La Rochelle
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La Rochelle leads the French Top 14 after eight rounds of league action, after beating top of the table Clermont Auvergne  19-10.

Last Word on Rugby brings you a summary of this weekend’s action and senior editor James Barker looks at the disrupted season so far.

La Rochelle wins top-of-the-table clash

The Top 14 has a new leader. La Rochelle won their sixth game out of seven and are three points clear of Clermont who fall to second. It was a very evenly matched game to reflect the two teams’ league positions; possession and territory were near 50-50 and both managed one try each.

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Ultimately it was the boot of Jules Plisson that made the difference. Four first-half penalties put La Rochelle 12-3 up, before Brice Dulin (above) scored a try three minutes before half time. Given La Rochelle hadn’t conceded a try at home so far this season, a 19-3 half-time lead seemed pretty secure.

And so it was, even though Clermont ended that defensive record. Tim Nanai-Williams scored an excellent individual try, converted by Camille Lopez. That proved to be the final score of the game, so Clermont finished empty-handed.

Toulouse hit by international call-ups

Since beating struggling Brive in round five, Toulouse have surrendered top spot after three games without a win. That is no coincidence since the likes of Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos, and Romain Ntamack have started heading off for international duty. Whilst Alexis Bales and Zach Holmes are able deputies at half-back, it hasn’t prevented defeats to Lyon and Stade Francais. This weekend, they were held at home to a 16-16 draw by Castres.

Multiple postponements by round eight

There is a clear last place, and a new leader in first place but, the table is not as easy to read beyond first glance.

Only three teams, Agen, Toulouse, and Pau, have actually played their eight scheduled matches. Montpellier in contrast has only played five matches, so naturally, sit in the lower reaches.  Their match this week against Stade Francais Paris was postponed due to several positive covid cases in their squad, that also caused their round seven match against Lyon to be called off.

Whilst matches have been rescheduled, it raises the question of whether there will have to be games forfeited, as we have seen in the Gallagher Premiership. Already the backlog of matches is putting a strain on an already tight fixture list.

French Top 14 round-up

Elsewhere in round eight, Toulon secured a 35-19 bonus-point win over Brive on Friday 6th November. Bordeaux-Begles racked up a similarly impressive 43-19 victory over Bayonne, whilst Racing won a tight encounter against Pau, emerging victorious 24-22.

Sunday’s other match finished 19-16 to Lyon away to the bottom-of-the-table club, Agen. Lyon had built a 19-6 lead, with four penalties from Jonathan Wisniewski complementing a try from fullback Toby Arnold. Agen picked up a losing bonus point, but remain winless and already eight points adrift of safety.

There will hopefully be a full fixture list in round nine; Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon is the stand-out tie at the top of the table.


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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images