La Rochelle and Racing victorious, Toulouse and Stade Français fall in England… What to remember from the first matches of the 3rd day
The third day of the Champions Cup began on Friday with a Castres defeat against Munster. Since then, fortunes have varied for French clubs. Back to the first matches of the penultimate day of the group stage.
La Rochelle Essay Festival opposite Bath
The Maritimes managed the feat of shining despite the thick fog that forced you to squint to see the players in this game. Weighed down by their inconsistency since the start of the season, Ronan O’Gara’s players (sixth in the Top 14) have – almost – perfectly maneuvered in their duel against the last of the Premiership. Thanks to the paw of Popelin (6/7 against the poles), applied to punish the faults of Bath by aggravating the score, La Rochelle was quickly able to free itself to take off and win its second European victory after that conquered against Glasgow .
Improved victory for Yellow and Black against @BathRugby in very winter weather conditions Congratulations to our players and our 5000 supporters who braved the cold #SRvBAT #CoupedesChampions #SRFever pic.twitter.com/LBPQ3H0pNC
— Stade Rochelais (@staderochelais) January 15, 2022
The teammates of the third-line international center Grégory Alldritt stopped the pitfall of previous matches: wasting chances despite a good start and being invaded by doubt. Relying on a great defensive solidity, the Rochelais took advantage of the legs of the three-quarter international center Jonathan Danty and the power of the second line Rémi Picquette, author of a double, to score 20 points in 24 minutes. If they relaxed at the hour mark (3 tries conceded), the Rochelais still gleaned an offensive bonus (5 tries) which could make the difference in the race for the round of 16.
Racing 92 still undefeated and qualified
He will have waited for a spark from Teddy Thomas. With a small kick to follow, the international winger sent Juan Imhoff to flatten the ball in the en-but to allow his team to get their heads back (34th, 8-10). Because Racing 92, normally so flamboyant in the European Cup, has long lacked precision to validate its domination. This try from the Argentinian winger allowed the Ile-de-France residents to stay in the game despite a sluggish first period. They then proceeded to win (25-10), Saturday January 15, and afford the place of first French club qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.
The Ospreys, long valiant and efficient, ended up giving way under the onslaught of Laurent Travers’ men. Taken aback by the creativity and support of Gaël Fickou, Kurtley Beale and even Finn Russell, the Welsh were suffocated by the physical density of the entrants – Camille Chat and Cedate Gomes Sa particularly distinguished themselves – while the young Antoine Gibert, at the melee, left no respite to his opponents thanks to a precise occupation kicking game. If it misses the offensive bonus of a try, Racing 92 has provided the essentials by consolidating its position as leader of Pool A.
The missteps of Toulouse and Stade Français in England
Stade Toulousain was scuttled in Coventry. In the den of the Wasps, the teammates of Romain Ntamack – captain in the absence of Antoine Dupont – offered a poor copy. Clumsy (19 lost balls), too penalized (11 faults and a yellow card against Jelonch), late in support, the European champion logically fell (30-22) against the English who never gave up.
There aren’t many positives to take away. The energy was on the side of the Wasps. There are things that bothered me this afternoon. I saw a state of mind focused on the game, it was obvious, but for all that, with each refereeing decision, everyone raised their arms… and that is not us. We will therefore refocus on the essentials and put things back in order.Ugo Mola, Stade Toulousain coach
at a press conference
Deprived of the defensive bonus at the end of the match, Toulouse will have to show a completely different face against Cardiff to live up to their ambitions and clinch a place in the top four of their group.
For its part, Stade Français lost on the lawn of Bristol (28-17) after having conceded four tries, and saw the qualification move away. The center Piers O’Connor offered a double for the English (24th, 60th). Antoine Burban reduced the gap with a try (66th), converted by Nicolas Sanchez. With two defeats and a draw forced by the Covid-19, Stade Français is in bad shape before the last day of the group stage.
Castres still a stone’s throw from the feat
After three defeats in as many games, the Castres European campaign should end next weekend. Nevertheless, by hanging the Harlequins, then the European ogre that is Munster twice, when they were promised hell, the Tarnais have surely won more than lost. Friday night, Pierre-Henry Broncan’s players were attractive and believed they had achieved the feat until the 78th minute. A strong try from Gavin Coombes robbed them of victory (16-13).
Performances, each time obtained with a European Cup version team – meaning deeply redesigned – which will be, despite the defeats, precious for the rest of the CO season. The group will try to finish in style at Harlequins in Twickenham on the final day of the group stage.