Modest Castres in driving seat
January 5, 2010
Clermont were irresistible against Toulon © Getty Images
With double wins in the bag for Castres Olympique, Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne in the last week or so, there's been little change at the summit of the Top 14 over the Christmas period.
With two impressive derby wins over Montauban (30-7) and Albi (44-10), surprise package Castres consolidated their lead at the top.
However the Tarn-based side seem to be taking it all in their stride with second-row Mathias Rolland conceding that he was just relieved to get two potential banana skins out of the way over the busy festive season.
"We were conscious that these derby matches were potential pitfalls," Rolland told Midi Olympique. "Winning these matches are important for us as well as for the public. Before the Montauban game, I thought about how often the guys have felt disappointment in the last few seasons. So on the pitch, we wanted to do something about it.
"That's why winning these derbies have a fundamental importance; we didn't want to betray our supporters."
Meanwhile, Toulon scrumhalf Pierre Mignoni admitted his side had no excuses following their 39-3 hammering at the hands of Clermont at Stade Marcel Michelin. Toulon, who put 40 points on struggling Albi last week, had no answers as Clermont ran in five tries while England international Jonny Wilkinson had a rare off-day with the kicking tee.
Speaking to La Montagne, former Clermontois Mignoni pinpointed his side's two yellow cards as the reason for the result.
"Of course, Toulon lost," he said. "But with that sort of indiscipline, you couldn't hope to win at [Stade Marcel] Michelin. It was a very high level of performance from Clermont."
The biggest surprise of the Christmas period however was saved for Stade Yves-du-Manoir in Paris where perennial strugglers Bourgoin gave their hopes of avoiding the drop a huge boost by dispatching Racing Metro 17-18.
Head coach Eric Catinot declared himself "extremely happy" with the result for a club whose season has been dominated by financial troubles.
"Everyone has been condemning us [to the drop] since the beginning of the season," said Catinot defiantly to Le Dauphine. "Bourgoin's problems aren't over, close to it maybe, but we wanted to play well [in Paris]. We know how to play rugby and on the pitch at least, Bourgoin will be in the Top 14 next year."