Top 14 Preview and Predictions: Round 25



The Top 14 can add another name to the list of players who are calling time on their season. Castres’ stalwart Romain Teulet announced this week that he will call time on his career. The fullback has scored 3,096 points in his 13 years with the Tarn club, lifting the Top 14 title in 2013 and the European Shield in 2003.

His last home match in Castres’ colours is likely to be this weekend’s game against leaders Montpellier. Even if the defending champions make the play-offs – which is far from certain as they currently occupy the sixth and final play-off place – it’s most likely they’ll be away from home in the quarter-finals.

Expect an emotional outing, then, as a packed house at Pierre Antoine cheer on their side to what they hope will be a play-off affirming win, but also bid the fondest of farewells to a legend of their own. Teulet or no Teulet, this is a match the Top 14 champions must win if they are to keep their destiny in their hands.

Elsewhere, Paris is the place to be for rugby fans as not one but two crucial Top 14 clashes take place in the French capital, as Racing Metro face Clermont and Stade Francais take on Bordeaux.

Racing’s late-season charge has seen them barrel up the table into the play-off zone, while Clermont, who still have Heineken Cup concerns, will be determined to scrap all the way for one of the top-two slots and a week off before the play-off semi-finals. But Racing, at home, with a baying crowd behind them, will most likely edge it.

Meanwhile, across the city, Stade Francais and Bordeaux meet at Stade Jean Bouin. Both sides are just outside the play-off places and a bad result for either would pretty much end their season.

You have to feel for Oyonnax. It’s easy to admire their never-say-die attitude – but, coming into the last two matches of their first season in the Top 14, they find themselves in 13th place and the second relegation spot. Last season, 32 points would have seen them safe. This season, with two matches to go, 48 isn’t close to good enough.

This Saturday, they’re at home to Toulouse, and then they’re away at Brive. What they need right now is belief. They have already beaten Castres, Toulon, Clermont and Racing Metro at Charles Mathon. Beating one more play-off hopeful has to be possible. Doesn’t it?

Despite last week’s papering-over-the-cracks home win over Oyonnax, Perpignan could be favourites for the drop. This Saturday – just when they needed home advantage – they entertain Toulon in soccer heartland Barcelona. Next weekend they’re at Clermont. It’s on the impossible side of hard to see them winning either of their closing matches.

Biarritz are already down – and reports are surfacing that under-20 star Teddy Thomas’s eyes may have been turned by a lucrative offer from Racing Metro, in spite of club president Serge Blanco’s confidence that he could persuade the talented winger to stay.

They welcome Brive to Parc des Sports Aguilera this weekend. The visitors still have an outside chance of making the play-offs, but they need to combine big wins with an unlikely set of other results going their way. All they can do is pick up all the points they can. Anything less and this season will be effectively over.

Grenoble’s season has come off the rails since Christmas. Fortress Stade Lesdiguières has collapsed in recent weeks, and a near-cataclysmic end-of-season drop in form means Isere side aren’t safe from relegation. This week’s match against Bayonne could go a long way to deciding not just their fate but that of their opponents.

It’s likely to be a very tense affair this weekend, but the home side should come away with a crucial four points.

SuperBru predictions:
Castres v Montpellier: Castres by 16
Oyonnax v Toulouse: Oyonnax by 6
Perpignan v Toulon: Toulon by 15
Biarritz v Brive: Brive by 10
Grenoble v Bayonne: Grenoble by 8
Racing Metro v Clermont: Racing Metro by 7
Stade Francais v Bordeaux: Stade Francais by 4

By James Harrington (@blackmountained)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images