Top 14 festive programme decimated

·2-min read

Covid has wrought havoc with the Christmas weekend in the Top 14 with four of seven matches called off, while there were wins for Castres, Montpellier and La Rochelle.

The matches between Brive and Clermont, Racing 92 and Pau, Toulouse and Stade Francais and the eagerly-awaited Toulon v UBB clash all fell foul of Covid, with the games set to be played later in the season but most of the French rugby public are curious as to where they might fit into a jammed calendar.

Restrictions

France’s U20 camp ahead of the Six Nations was also called off, while a League National de Rugby (LNR) meeting on Tuesday, at which that matter, plus the introduction of mandatory vaccine passes for players, stricter Covid bubbles and the effects of looming new emergency legislation on the sporting world in general are to be discussed.

The only game to go ahead on Boxing Day was Castres’ visit to Perpignan, with the visitors triumphing 20-19 courtesy of a late try by prop Levan Chilachava, converted nervelessly by veteran fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta

The 35-year-old Argentinean set the seal on his 150th match for Castres with that conversion, as well as one other and two penalties as Castres laboured to a win that ought to have been easier. Urdapilleta now has 1463 points in Castres colours and recently extended his contract by another season.

Elsewhere, although there was no action, Brive gave supporters a Christmas present by announcing three contract extensions and three new signings, headlined by Argentinean international flanker Rodrigo Bruni. The other big move of the day was Clermont’s capture for next season of veteran fly-half Jules Plisson from La Rochelle.

Monday saw a little more action on the pitch. Montpellier closed the gap on the top two – neither of whom played – with a 27-12 win at relegation-threatened Biarritz.

Leading 13-12 at half-time, the visitors notched two late tries despite losing Bastien Chalureau to a yellow card after 50 minutes for repeated infringements and then a second yellow two minutes after returning from the first one for a high tackle.

Biarritz, roared on by a ferocious crowd, were all industry and no finesse even with the extra man however, and Montpellier’s tries, the first from Vincent Rattez, the second from Masivesi Dakuwaqa, crowned Montpellier’s sixth win in a row with a bonus point.

In the final game of the weekend, played in a near-biblical tempest at times, La Rochelle squelched to victory over a lacklustre Lyon by 25-3, also claiming a late bonus point, to leapfrog both Lyon and Castres into fourth.

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