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.

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Ulster vs ToulonUlster vs Toulon Preview
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Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
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London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
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Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
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