French Top 14: Clermont v Castres Preview

Clermont and Castres will have the honour of bringing down the curtain on 2017 Top 14 proceedings when they lock horns on Sunday the 31st of December.

Clermont will be looking to close out what has been a hit and miss second-half of 2017 when they play host to Castres this coming Sunday. The visitors should provide stiff opposition here as they will head into the fixture full of confidence having beaten Stade Francais by 22 points last Saturday.

ASM Clermont v Castres Olympique | Sunday 31 December | Stade Marcel-Michelin | 17:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 1/5 | Draw 23/1 | Castres 34/10

ASM Clermont

The defending Top 14 champions are fast becoming an enigma, they win games you'd expect them to lose and lose games you'd expect them to win comfortably. Having done the double over Saracens over the previous fortnight, Clermont looked good value for the win away to Pau last week. One of the most ludicrously unexpected moments in the history of rugby put pay to that, however.

Having taken a slender two-point lead into the final two minutes of their clash with Pau, Clermont looked like they would make it five wins from six games across all competitions. Up step the undisputed unaware rugby player of the decade, Beqa Kakabadze, who must have thought the game needed a bit more drama as he decided to slap one of his opponents and subsequently hand Pau fly-half, Tom Taylor, an easily kickable penalty. Taylor made no mistake slotting it right through the sticks to clinch a dramatic win for Pau with the last action of the game.

Castres Olympique

Castres enjoyed a much-less dramatic and fruitful day out last weekend as they hammered Stade Francais 28-6. The win has seen this weekend's visitors move up to third on the Top 14 standings and eight points clear of 10th-placed Clermont. Were they to do the unthinkable this weekend and turnover Clermont at the Marcel-Michelin - and Montpellier and La Rochelle fail to claim anything from their respective fixtures - then Castres could actually find themselves at the summit of the Top 14 log heading into 2018.

While the above scenario would spark one of the biggest New Year's Eve celebrations the world has ever witnessed, it's unlikely to play out as La Rochelle and Montpellier have relatively easy assignments this weekend. Clermont will also come into this one extremely fired-up after what transpired last weekend, so Castres could well find themselves in for a long day this New Year's Eve.

Verdict: Clermont 1/5
Both of these sides are in solid touch which means it's really tough to call a winner here. As such, I've decided my main play will be on the total points line Over 49.5 points - I suspect this is the line that will be offered by the bookmakers when live betting opens up on the game. This seems quite a smart move as both sides have been rather porous defensively this term. If you must have a strike on the ante-post action, then I recommend a small go on the home win.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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