Auspicious two weeks before the Six Nations Tournament. Three French clubs, Toulouse, Clermont and Racing 92, representing fifteen of the 42 Blues summoned by Fabien Galthié, qualified for the quarter-finals of the European Cup.
Disappointing in the championship but smiling in the European Cup: Toulouse, defending French champion but only 7th in the Top 14, and Clermont, runner-up last season and 8th this year, validated their tickets for the final phase after having respectively dominated the Irish provinces of Connacht (21-7) and Ulster (29-13).
Racing 92 imitated them, at home, against Munster (39-22) with a thunderous end to the game.
. Toulouse, received five out of five
After two under-performances in the league (draw against Toulon 13-13, defeat against the Stade Français 30-18), Toulouse resumed its march forward on the European side.
Fifth game and fifth victory for the Rouge et Noir on Saturday in the usually impregnable fortress of Galway. And this despite the wind and rain, a penalty try cashed after 10 minutes of play and a double numerical inferiority at the end of the match after the cards collected by Yoann Huget (yellow, 72nd) and Zack Holmes (red, 74th) .
The Toulousans certainly did not shine but, carried by their pack of forwards, Julien Marchand and Charlie Faumuina at the head, they found the solidarity and the courage demanded by their coach Ugo Mola.
. Clermont in pain
How complicated it was! Jostled by Ulster for 40 minutes (10-9 for the Irish at halftime), the Jaunards had to fight hard to ensure their qualification.
They can thank an Alexandre Fischer XXL, impressive in defense and in all the good shots. What justify his surprise invitation to the Blues by Fabien Galthié. And allow the ASM to dream of a home quarter. But, for that, we will have to win on the Harlequins lawn next week.
Franck Azéma will be able to rely on the center George Moala and the winger Alivereti Raka, authors of an essay each and a full service.
. Racing 92 thanks its "Teddy"
As against Clermont in the championship, Teddy Thomas and Teddy Iribaren pulled Racing 92 out of the cold. Jostled, even downright abused, the Ile-de-France finished strongly against Munster (39-22) to join the quarters too.
The winger took a double, including an incredible try at the end of the game to allow Ciel et Blanc to take off while the N.9 broke a magic pass for the first try of Thomas and registered fifteen points at the foot. With these "Teddy", Racing can see it coming.
. LOU loses Geraci
Already eliminated, the LOU fell on the lawn of Leinster (42-14). The Lyonnais had however held the high against the finalist of last season for 40 minutes. But Irish power made the difference in the second half. The fourth defeat in five LOU matches in the European Cup.
Worse, Pierre Mignoni's men lost their second line Killian Geraci, hit a knee after three minutes of play and replaced by Félix Lambey. Bad news for Fabien Galthié who summoned the 20-year-old for the first time in preparation for the Six Nations Tournament.
. Montpellier last, La Rochelle first
Finally a home victory! La Rochelle won its first European success at Marcel-Deflandre: beaten by the Chiefs (31-12) then the Warriors (27-24), the Maritimes dominated the Sharks (30-23).
Mathematically still in the race for the quarter-finals, La Rochelle, carried by a sparkling Tawera Kerr-Barlow, would need a miracle to see the final phase.
It is however well finished for the MHR, beaten for the fourth time in five games. With a revamped team, deprived of many executives and the majority of its internationals, the Héraultais sank in Gloucester (29-6).
© 2020 AFP