Perpignan sent shockwaves to all corners of French rugby after they pummelled a languid Toulouse side 34-20 in the Catalan capital Barcelona on Saturday.
The French champions behaved like a band of arrogant mercenaries travelling south-east to subjugate a Catalan rebellion without any real plan as to how they were going to achieve it. They lacked physicality, desire and urgency against a wounded animal already teetering on the brink of a crisis despite the juvenility of the season.
This was a real opportunity for Guy Noves’ men to throw a potential rival deep in the mire with a fourth defeat from five. Instead, they have given Perpignan the injection of adrenaline they need to get a very powerful ball rolling. Once tighthead Nicolas Mas returns to shore up their scrum problems, they could become a real force with a plethora of ball-carriers in their pack and some elusive runners out wide in the shape of Lifiemi Mafi, David Marty, James Hook and the thunderbolt Farid Sid.
As for Toulouse, the margin of their defeat flattered them. Outside of the scrum, they were abysmal in all facets of play. Luke McAlister looked out of place at ten when control was needed and their back three looked like they had been doing their tackling practice at the Jean Baptiste-Elissalde school of gentle knocks. Already seven points behind Toulon, they do not have time to continue with these lacklustre performances as Noves himself noted this week.
Elsewhere, Toulon continued their impressive form with a 32-25 win away to Montpellier. Freddie Michalak showed that he will not be content to warm the bench for Jonny Wilkinson with an assured kicking display and energetic running game. The passage of play he began for Toulon’s first try from under their posts for Pierrick Gunther was almost pantomime stuff (see below).
Elsewhere, Napolini Nalaga try saved Clermont their blushes against the whipping boys Mont-de-Marsan. Stade Francais continued their miserable campaign losing to Bordeaux Begles and Castres finally broke Biarritz’s run of form with a surprisingly comfortable 28-13 win.
‘Le Choc’ of the weekend this week takes place at the Mayol where Toulon will welcome Castres with arms firmly closed as they look to cement their place at the top of the table. Toulouse have another tricky away tie to ponder against Bayonne, Perpignan will take a renewed confidence to the nation’s capital against hapless Stade. Staying in the capital, Biarritz will have to be careful not to undo their impressive start as they take on Racing. Agen will travel to Mont-de-Marsan in a pivotal relegation battle, Bordeaux will fancy their chances at home to Montpellier and Clermont should do the business on Grenoble at home.
My Top 14 Round 6 SuperBru Picks:
Bayonne v Toulouse: Toulouse by 4
Bordeaux v Montpellier: Bordeaux by 2
Clermont v Grenoble: Clermont by 10
Mont-de-Marsan v Agen: Agen by 7
Racing Metro v Biarritz: Racing by 7
Stade Francais v Perpignan: Perpignan by 6
Toulon v Castres: Toulon by 5
By Mike Dolan