After three weeks of inertia in the French top tier, the Top 14 returns with a bag this weekend with Round 11 serving up a number of titanic battles including clashes between Stade and Toulon, Racing and Clermont as well as Lyon and Toulouse.
Saturday 26 November
La Rochelle 2/13 | Draw 25/1 | Castres 48/10
La Rochelle (-12.5) 17/20 | Castres (+12.5) 17/20
Not a bad way to restart the league with second-placed La Rochelle taking on last season’s runners-up, Castres. While Castres have been far from their best – they currently reside in tenth on the ladder and have only won five out of ten games – they should still pose a threat to a La Rochelle side that has only won one more game than their opponents.
The two sides gave decent accounts of themselves in the round prior to the break with Castres claiming a losing bonus point from their 26-20 away loss to Lyon, while La Rochelle managed to Brive 17-19 away from home.
While I do expect Castres to give La Rochelle a real run, I reckon a late surge from the hosts will see them to a somewhat comfortable victory.
Pau 3/10 | Draw 24/1 | Brive 26/10
Pau (-8.5) 17/20 | Brive (+8.5) 17/20
We head to the Stade du Hameau next where 12th-placed Pau will take on last-placed Brive.
The hosts have registered four wins from their opening ten games with their most recent fixture seeing hammer Bordeaux 33-7. They had been on someone of a hot streak before the break having beaten La Rochelle 21-38 a week prior to beating Bordeaux.
Brive did not fare as well prior to the break with the cellar-dwellers going down 17-19 to La Rochelle and 38-43 to Racing. They gave decent accounts of themselves in both those defeats and they should provide a real test for Pau this weekend.
While I can see Brive hanging in their, I don’t think they’ll be able to bag an upset win. Money on the hosts.
Perpignan 92/100 | Draw 23/1 | Bordeaux 93/100
13th-placed Perpignan will be trying to put some distance between themselves and the foot of the table when they take on 11th-placed Bordeaux. The visitors have endured a tough start to the campaign winning just four of their opening ten fixtures.
In terms of the sides most recent results, the hosts had a hit and miss fortnight before the break beating Lyon 28-21 and then going down 44-20 to Racing the following week, while Bordeaux edged Toulon 27-26 and then were hammered 33-7 by Pau.
While Perpignan have proved a tough nut to crack at home, I reckon Bordeaux will have their number here.
Montpellier 1/7 | Draw 33/1 | Bayonne
Montpellier (-13.5) 17/20 | Bayonne (+13.5) 17/20
Bayonne have enjoyed a more positive start to the season winning six of their ten. They currently sit two-points clear of Montpellier in sixth-place on the ladder. Like their opponents, Bayonne were on a hot streak before the international break beating Perpignan 24-20, Toulouse 26-22 and Clermont 20-25.
While I expect Bayonne to give Montpellier a real run for their money, I can’t see them winning this fixture. I’d be happy to take Bayonne on the plus for any double digit handicap.
Stade Francais 5/10 | Draw 21/1 | Toulon 17/10
Stade Francais (-3.5) 17/20 | Toulon (+3.5) 17/20
We’ve got a big one next up with traditional heavyweights Stade Francis and Toulon locking horns in Paris. The hosts have enjoyed a decent start to the season – well at least compared to their recent campaigns – winning five and drawing one. They currently reside n fourth-place on the log but they are only four points clear of Toulon who sit eighth.
Toulon probably needed the break more than Stade as they lost their final two games going down 27-26 to Bordeaux and 16-26 to Montpellier, while drew 16-16 away to Toulouse and narrowly lost 23-19 away to Montpellier.
I reckon it will be a tight old affair and my money is on the hosts edging it by no more than three points.
Racing 92 29/100 | Draw 25/1 | Clermont 11/4
Racing (-9.5) 17/20 | Clermont (+9.5) 17/20
Our penultimate fixture is yet another cracker with third-placed Racing 92 taking on struggling heavyweights Clermont at the Paris La Defense.
Racing have enjoyed a really solid start to the campaign winning six of their ten games. Most of their wins have come in recent weeks and they went into the international break off the back of wins over Montpellier (38-31), Brive (38-43) and Perpignan (44-20).
Clermont had a together run in to the break as they drew 23-23 with Bordeaux, went down 26-22 to Castres and then lost 20-25 at home to minnows Bayonne.
They’re were in better shape before the break and they’ve got home ground advantage. Money is well an truly on Racing here.
Lyon 66/100 | Draw 25/1 | Toulouse
Lyon (-2.5) 17/20 | Toulouse (+2.5) 17/20
Lyon and Toulouse will bring the curtain down on the Round 11 action when they square off at the Stade Gerland this Sunday.
Both sides have endured rather strange starts to the campaign with Lyon starting slowly and then picking up speed while Toulouse went off the boil just before the break.
The visitors currently top the standings with seven wins and a draw from their ten fixtures. Their final two games prior to the Autumn break saw them go down 26-22 to minnows Bordeaux and then draw 16-16 with Stade.
Lyon were pretty good prior to the hiatus as they beat Montpellier 26-33, Pau 31-27 and Castres 26-20. Sandwiched between the wins over Pau and Castres was a 28-21 loss to Perpignan.