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Top 14 Preview: Final Round

02nd May 2014 13:46

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Clermont s Fidji winger Napolioni Nalaga C v Perpignan

Mission impossible? USAP visit Clermont fighting for survival

Everything is still to play for as the Top 14 reaches the final day of the regular season with high-stakes clashes at both ends of the table this weekend.

Who will finish top? Who will qualify automatically for the semi-finals? Who will host play-offs next week? Who will be relegated along with Biarritz? Who will finish seventh and potentially earn a place in Europe?

All these questions will be answered on Saturday.

Perpignan face a near-impossible task to avoid their first relegation since 1911. USAP are currently second from bottom but level with Oyonnax and Bayonne. Perhaps their best bet of survival, though, does not even depend on them. If Perpignan don't pull off a miracle win at Clermont, they could still survive if Oyonnax get a result in Brive while Bayonne lose badly at home to Castres.

A complicated tiebreakers system means that if Perpignan finish level with only Bayonne, they would actually stay up on a better head-to-head game points difference.

Oyonnax have probably the easiest tie away to Brive, one of only two teams with nothing to play for this weekend.

Elsewhere it is all about final play-off positions.

Stade Français are just outside the play-off berths but level on points with sixth-placed Toulouse. However, the Parisians face a daunting trip to leaders Toulon while the four-time European champions are at home to Grenoble.

If both Stade Français and Toulouse win then defending champions Castres could miss out on a top six spot with a defeat at Bayonne.

A draw would be enough for Toulon to secure top spot while second-placed Montpellier host fourth-placed Racing-Metro in arguably the game of the weekend.

The top two get a direct ticket into the semi-finals while the third and fourth placed finishers host fifth and sixth in the quarter-final play-offs next week.

Fixtures:

Saturday, May 3 All kick off at 14:45 local (12:45 GMT)
Clermont v Perpignan
Bayonne v Castres
Bordeaux-Bègles v Biarritz
Brive v Oyonnax
Montpellier v Racing Métro
Toulon v Stade Français
Toulouse v Grenoble

Standings:
1 Toulon 74
2 Montpellier 71
------------------------
3 Clermont 69
4 Racing Metro 69
5 Castres 66
6 Toulouse 64
------------------------
7 Stade Français 64
8 Bordeaux-Begles 59
9 Brive 57
10 Grenoble 53
11 Bayonne 50
12 Oyonnax 50
------------------------
13 Perpignan 50
14 Biarritz 30

Previews:

ASM Clermont Auvergne v USA Perpignan
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand

The task is mammoth for 2009 champions Perpignan if they hope to avoid relegation for the first time in over 100 years.

Apart from the home side's 76-game unbeaten home record, USAP won have in Clermont just once in 35 years and 20 attempts, back in 2006.

It's been a huge fall from grace for Perpignan. Since the professional era began in 1995, the Catalans have more often been fighting for titles than staving off relegation.

Yet flanker Bertrand Guiry believes in miracles.

"If there's a group that can do it then maybe it's one like ours, a team that is wounded, with guys who want revenge," said Guiry.

"It would be a miracle if we managed it but we just have to not ask ourselves any questions and show great commitment. It's a game in which every individual must play his best match of the season."

The problem for Perpignan is that they come into this match in dreadful form, low on confidence and with key players such as France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina and Samoa flanker Daniel Leo out injured.

Apart from already-relegated Biarritz, the Catalans have the worst record in the Top 14 over the second half of the season and their last three away matches have seen them ship 110 points.

A losing bonus point could be worth gold depending on results elsewhere.

As long as neither Bayonne nor Perpignan earn a losing bonus point, that would leave them level on points and competition points between them, but with Perpignan slightly ahead on match points between the pair having won 20-8 when they met in Catalonia but lost 31-20 from their clash in the Basque Country - giving them a 40-39 aggregate advantage.

Don't expect any favours from Clermont, who are smarting from a terrible performance in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Saracens at Twickenham.

Damien Chouly and Aurélien Rougerie are all doubts, while Fritz Lee, Julien Bonnaire, Daniel Kotze and Lee Byrne have been ruled out.

Previous result Clermont won 30-23
Referee: Cyril Lafon


Aviron Bayonnais v Castres Olympique
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

Another game with two sides under massive pressure. If both Stade Français and Toulouse win then Castres could miss out on a top six spot with a defeat at Bayonne, who are taking their fight for survival to the bitter end...once again.

The Basques have become experts at missing the drop by the skin of their teeth but should keep their place in the top division.

Castres have picked up just one win and one draw on the road this term but are gunning for a home play-off so will not lack from motivation.

Bayonne are in positive mood having beaten Stade Français before snatching a draw in Grenoble last time out. They have named an unchanged matchday squad with Neemia Tialata having overcome a back injury.

Castres are without Romain Martial, Karena Wihongi, Benjamin Desroche and Geoffrey Palis but welcome back Anton Peikrishvili.

Result in Round 13: Castrescwon 46-16
Referee:Jérôme Garcès


Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Biarritz Olympique
Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

UBB have a massive carrot as a bonus-point win could be enough to earn a play-off against an English club for a European berth, assuming Toulon beat Stade Français.

Dimitri Yachvili is an injury absentee, meaning he has played his final game for Biarritz.

Result in Round 13: Bordeaux-Bègles won 22-15
Referee: Patrick Pechambert


CA Brive-Corrèze v US Oyonnax
Stade Amédée-Domenech, Brive-la-Gaillarde

It's likely to be a festive occasion in Brive as not since 2007 have both clubs promoted to the Top 14 stayed up.

Oyonnax have not been great on the road but their chances of avoiding the drop will no doubt be helped by the fact that Brive have nothing to play for.

Oyonnax lost by a single point on their last visit to Brive, in the ProD2 last season, but a losing bonus point is likely to be enough for l'USO to defy the pre-season odds and secure their survival

Result in Round 13: Oyonnax won 26-9
Referee:Sébastien Minery


Montpellier Hérault Rugby v Racing Métro 92
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier

The two in-form clubs in France face off. Direct qualification into the semi-finals is on the line as second-placed Montpellier host fourth-placed Racing-Metro in the weekend's key fixture.

With eight wins in 12 games since the New Year, Racing have been the most successful team of the second half of the season. Les Franciliens arrive riding the wave of a five-match winning streak.

Montpellier haven't been far behind though with seven wins in their last nine matches.

Montpellier welcome back Fulgence Ouedraogo from a five-month injury lay-off but Fijian flyer Timoci Nagusa is missing due to a dislocated shoulder.

Racing will be without Benjamin Fall (who is set to join Montpellier next season).

Result in Round 13: Racing won 17-12
Referee: Patrick Gauzère


Rugby Club Toulonnais v Stade Français Paris
Stade Allianz Riviera, Nice

Toulon have moved their final home game of the season to the Allianz Riviera for a gala occassion against their Parisian rivals.

RCT could end the season with a maximum of 78 points, 11 less than last term, but that would still be enough to finish top in a remarkably competitive season.

Stade Français have gone off the boil in a big way having set the pace for much of the early campaign and now need a shock win to have any hope of salvaging a place in Europe.

Toulon manager Bernard Laporte has likened this match to a "quarter-final", adding that it offers the European champions the "ideal preparation" ahead a big month as they hunt the Euro-French title double.

Toulon have lost just once at home all season while Stade have failed to win on their last four road trips.

Toulon welcome back Ali Williams but Jonny Wilkinson and Jocelino Suta have been rested. Fred Michalak is set to play fly-half fro RCT.

Result in Round 13: Stade Français won 23-0
Referee: Sébastien Clouté


Stade Toulousain v FC Grenoble
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Toulouse could yet pull their season from the fire as a bonus-point win combined with Racing leaving Montpellier empty handed could see les Toulousains bag a home play-off.

The home side have been boosted by the return of a lot of big names (Dusautoir, Nyanga, Picamoles, McAlister, Steenkamp and David) and will be keen to impress after their abject failure in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

Since their only home loss of the season against Montpellier, Toulouse are unbeaten in five games having picked up two draws on the road.

Grenoble have not tasted victory in two months and could theoretically still get relegated if they lost and all three of Perpignan, Bayonne and Oyonnax won. That scenario is unlikely but even if it were to happen a losing bonus point would be enough to stay up.

FCG are sending a few youngsters in their team in the absence of full-back Benjamin Thiery. They do however welcome back stalwarts Julien Caminati, Rudi Coetzee, Blair Stewart and Olivier Chaplain

Result in Round 13: Grenoble won 25-18
Referee: Christophe Berdos

  • Top 14 Fixtures
Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse14:45
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
Sunday , November 2
Toulon vs Grenoble13:00
Saturday , November 8
Castres vs Toulon18:00
Racing Metro Paris vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
  • Top 14 Results
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Sunday , October 12
Toulouse 21 - 10 ToulonToulouse vs Toulon Report
Saturday , October 11
Bordeaux-Begles 59 - 7 CastresBordeaux-Begles vs Castres Report
Montpellier 25 - 9 Oyonnax
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 10 La Rochelle
Stade Francais 23 - 19 Racing Metro ParisStade Francais vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Lyon 24 - 19 Bayonne
Friday , October 10
Grenoble 26 - 25 BriveGrenoble vs Brive Report
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles 51 - 21 Clermont Auvergne
Bayonne 10 - 15 Montpellier
Castres 51 - 10 Grenoble
More Top 14 results
  • Top 14 Table
Overall 2014
Top 14 Table
PosTeamPPts
1Clermont Auvergne931
2Toulon928
3Bordeaux-Begles927
4Montpellier926
5Stade Francais926