Planet Rugby

Most competitive Top 14 season ever

05th May 2014 13:18


Montpellier s fly half Francois Trinh Duc grimaces

Montpellier: Top travellers, top scorers, dark horses for the title

After Saturday's nail-biting climax to the season, we peel away the key statistics behind the most competitive French domestic campaign since the creation of the Top 14.

An extraordinary season went right down to the wire with 12 of the 14 teams facing crunch games in the 26th and final round.

As an illustration of the close-fought nature of this campaign, Toulon became the first team to finish at the summit of the standings without breaking the 80-point barrier since the league was cut to 14 teams in 2005-2006.

77 points were enough to see Toulon finish first, a whopping 14 points short of Clermont's table-topping total of 91 a year ago. In fact, 77 points would only have been enough for fourth place last year.

A mid-field traffic jam saw fourth-placed Toulouse finish just five points clear of eighth-placed Bordeaux-Begles.

It was even closer at the bottom of the standings with relegated Perpignan ending just three points behind tenth-placed Bayonne. Perpignan's 51 points this season would have been good enough for twelfth last term. Indeed, the Catalans scored a massive 20 points more than Agen did last year...for the same end result.

French clubs' apparent inability to win on the road is largely responsible for the congestion. Of the 182 games played during the regular season, only 28 were won by the away side. That's a lamentable 15.4 percent.

The best travelling sides were Toulon and Montpellier, winning just four games on the road - out of 13 - all season.

Five clubs - including Toulouse and defending champions Castries - could only manage one away victory. Clermont only managed two. Brive finished ninth despite not winning away from home at all.

A tight championship did not necessarily translate into open rugby though. Toulon, Montpellier and Clermont finished level as the championship's best attacking sides with 52 tries each (an average of just two per game), the lowest chart-topping total since the creation of the Top 14. By comparison, last year Clermont scored 81 tries.

Defence is clearly more important than ever. Toulon conceded the fewest tries, less than one per game. Toulouse conceded the fewest points, but still shipped 17 per game.

Four of the league's top five try scorers came from clubs that finished in the bottom half of the standings. Bordeaux's Fijian flyer Metuisela Talebula was the top hitman, with 13 tries from 19 matches.

Despite the predictable results during the season, the tense last day resulted in record television audience numbers with Canal+ reporting an average of 809 000 viewers tuning into Saturday's action with a peak of 1,1 million people tuning in for the dying minutes of this weekend's fixtures.

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 25
Ulster vs Toulon13:00
Scarlets vs Leicester19:45
Bath vs Toulouse15:15
Montpellier vs Glasgow17:15
Northampton vs Ospreys17:15
Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks15:15
Castres vs Leinster13:00
Wasps vs Harlequins17:15
Benetton Treviso vs Racing Metro 9217:15
More European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh vs Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Preview
Friday , October 24
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Brive vs Zebre18:30
Grenoble vs London Irish18:30
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Newcastle19:30
Edinburgh vs LOU Rugby19:45
Saturday , October 25
Bucuresti vs Stade Francais14:00
Rovigo vs Cardiff Blues14:00
Exeter vs Connacht15:00
Oyonnax vs Gloucester19:45
More European Rugby Challenge Cup fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , October 25
Western Province vs Lions17:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Saturday , October 25
Taranaki vs Tasman19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Toulon 28 - 18 ScarletsToulon vs Scarlets Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
London Irish 70 - 14 RovigoLondon Irish vs Rovigo Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
International Match
Saturday , October 18
Australia 28 - 29 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
More International Match results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sale Sharks 26 - 27 MunsterSale Sharks vs Munster Report
Saracens 30 - 23 Clermont AuvergneSaracens vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro 92 20 - 11 NorthamptonRacing Metro 92 vs Northampton Report
Glasgow 37 - 10 BathGlasgow vs Bath Report
Leicester 25 - 18 UlsterLeicester vs Ulster Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
LOU Rugby 28 - 18 London WelshLOU Rugby vs London Welsh Report
Zebre 24 - 33 Oyonnax
Cardiff Blues 37 - 14 Grenoble
Stade Francais 22 - 38 Newport Gwent D'gons
Bayonne 30 - 24 Exeter
Connacht 48 - 12 La Rochelle
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Lions 50 - 20 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Western Province 31 - 23 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
Taranaki 49 - 30 AucklandTaranaki vs Auckland Report
Manawatu 23 - 18 Southland
Tasman 26 - 6 CanterburyTasman vs Canterbury Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins 25 - 9 CastresHarlequins vs Castres Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Bordeaux-Begles 13 - 15 EdinburghBordeaux-Begles vs Edinburgh Report
Newcastle 43 - 19 Bucuresti
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table