A place in the Play-offs
12 May, 2011
|Rupeni Caucau back to his best despite the size. |
Montpellier see off a below-par Toulon to qualify for the the Frech Top 14 play-offs, a first in their history. Fabien Galthie's team were helped by another try from Timoci Nagusa, his 9th of the season. They go to Castres, who cruised past Perpignan.
The other home advantage goes to ASM Clermont, despite their defeat at Toulouse. In this game Rupeni Caucau was back to his best, scoring and generally giving Kini Murimurivalu a master lesson in wing-play. They, Toulouse, and Racing Metro are guaranteed automatic semi-final places.
Racing Metro had little problem seeing off their neighbours, Stade Francais, Sireli Bobo outstanding with a second minute try to set things rolling. Both teams have another two weeks to prepare for their matches which will be played on consecutive days in Marseille in front of 60 to 70,000 supporters, some of whom will be faced with a 1600 km or 1000 mile round trip to follow their team.
This brings me to the origins of the play-off system, and the various permutations to be found in France, and across the English Channel. The idea was the 'brain-child' of a certain Frank Shaunessey in 1933, and initially involved baseball games in the U.S.A. and Canada. It was based on the fact that with long distances between teams, and thus 'regional' divisions, it was the fairest way of finding the 'true' champion. While the initial concept had four teams in a single elimination tournament, 1st v 4th, 2nd v 3rd, television and general media, plus the need for sponsors, has seen the system adapted.
Rugby adopted play-offs with the advent of professionalism, to create more interest (and revenue) as a climax to the end of the season, supporters being happy to go that extra mile, as summer brings warmer weather and longer evenings.
In England, the Premier Division, and the Celtic League, (Ireland, Wales and Scotland, plus this year two teams from Italy), have kept to the original top four concept. The English adopted the play-offs in 2002, the Celts 2 years ago.
It is not always the team that finishes top of the regular season who are crowned champions as London Wasps showed with 4 out 6 play-off victories, while never being first going into them. This year it will be Leicester v Northampton; 60 km between the two clubs , and Tagicakibau's Saracens against Qera's Gloucester. The second division involves home and away matches to decide promotion, the winners also having to meet certain criteria to be accepted into the top tier.
|Sireli Bobo scored for Racing Metro to see off the challenge of Stade Francais. |
The Irish will be favorites in the Celtic League, with 3 teams out of the 4 involved, though the Ospreys of Wales sprang the surprise last year away to Leinster in the finals.
Back to France, where the 3 to 6 variant of the Top 14 is not followed in Pro D2. Here it's the 2nd - 5th placed clubs who go head to head. After last week-ends results, it was Lyon who took the automatic promotion place - "Congratulations to Ratuvou, Waka and Suka".
Grenoble will host Bordeaux-Belges while Mont de Marsan go to Albi. The 'Lethal Weapon- Timoci Matanavou' collected his 18th and 19th tries of the season, a record for the division.
Competition for the RWC squad seems to be heating up amongst the Flying Fijian wingers!
Elsewhere Auch just missed out, despite two tries from Alusio Buto. Colomiers were relegated although they won as Dax trounced Narbonne 60-17, Neumi Nanuku amongst the seven scorers.
To end, a quote from Guy Noves, trainer of Toulouse - "to finish leaders guarentees nothing"
. But one time out of two the leaders have finished champions in France.