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Toulouse and Bordeaux to contest Top 14 final amid red card mayhem in France

By Ian Cameron
Stade Francais' French fly-half Joris Segonds (L) reacts after his missed penalty during the French Top14 rugby union semifinal match between Stade Francais Paris and Bordeaux-Begles (UBB) at the New Bordeaux Stadium in Bordeaux, south-western France on June 22, 2024. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU / AFP) (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

The Top 14 semi-finals saw both Toulouse and Bordeaux advance to the final after victories against La Rochelle and Stade Francais respectively.

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Discipline issues ended La Rochelle’s bid for a first Top 14 title at the Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux. They lost their semi-final 39-23 against Toulouse; Ronan O’Gara’s side having now lost five knockout matches to Toulouse including their Top 14 finals in 2021 and 2023.

La Rochelle led before second-half red cards for Uini Atonio – for a dangerous challenge on Thibaud Flament – and Reda Wardi – for a headbutt on Julian Marchand – effectively ended their challenge.

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Jake White reflects on what went wrong

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Jake White reflects on what went wrong

In addition to the two red cards referee Tual Trainini sent Jack Nowell, Jack Willis and Julien Marchand to the sin-bin for various infringements.

Fixture
Top 14
Toulouse
39 - 23
Full-time
La Rochelle
All Stats and Data

La Rochelle did get off to a bright start when former Wallaby hooker Tolu Latu scored with just ten minutes on the clock.

However, Ugo Mola’s Toulouse would then score twice while La Rochelle’s Jack Nowell was in the bin for offside.

The first came when Toulouse used a complex tap penalty leading to Blair Kinghorn scoring the opening try.

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The second came just moments before the former Exeter Chiefs fullback was due back on the pitch as La Rochelle conceded a penalty in their own 22. Toulouse played their way across the pitch allowing Juan Cruz Mallia to score.

La Rochelle hit back when captain Gregory Alldritt scored on the stroke of halftime. England back row Willis had been yellow-carded on 36 minutes for repeated Toulouse offsides allowing Antoine Hastoy an easy shot at goal but Alldritt opted for a kick to touch that lead to his own try. O’Gara’s men went into the break leading 20-15.

It started going south, however, when five minutes after Atonio’s 42nd-minute red card Toulouse took control of the game. Peato Mauvaka was denied a try due to a forward pass but Santiago Chocobares charged down Brice Dulin’s clearance to score under the posts.

Despite being nine points and two players down La Rochelle forced a penalty which was converted by Hastoy.

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Toulouse’s Matthis Lebel killed off all doubt when he added a fifth try for the red and blacks three minutes from time.

The defending champions now head to Marseille for the final against Bordeaux. Their only concern is an injury to loosehead Cyril Baille who was stretchered off 10 minutes into the second half. Baille will miss the final due to a fractured fibula and ruptured ankle ligaments.

Bordeaux – guided by Yannick Bru – reached their first-ever Top 14 final after beating Stade Francais 22-20 in Bordeaux.

Fixture
Top 14
Stade Francais
20 - 22
Full-time
Bordeaux
All Stats and Data

Five tries were scored in Saturday’s match all off the back of mauls. The first two came from Bordeaux hooker Maxime Lamothe in the 17th and 21st minutes as his team stretched to a 17-3 lead.

Stade – who had defeated Bordeaux twice in the regular season – cut the deficit on the half-hour mark with back-rower Romain Briatte crossing.

Bordeaux back-row forward Pierre Bochaton was next to score before Stade replacement hooker Lucas Peyresblanques barrelled over in the 62nd minute to make the score 22-15.

In the dying moments Peyresblanques scored his second try in the corner as Stade trailed by just two points.

However, Segonds found the kicking angle too tight and his attempt to pull his team level failed leaving Bordeaux to celebrate victory.

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Billy 25 days ago

Toulouse seem to consistently outsmart La Rochelle and their brawn but also have luck on their side not having to play 15. 15 on 15 Toulouse were struggling with the sheer physicality brought on by Skelton, Aldritt, Antonio, Latu, Cancoriet and Danty and Colombe when they came on. La R really missed Botia though.

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finn 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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FEATURE Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma
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