Tuilagi's Perpignan to stay in the Top 14
In an enthralling showdown at the Stade des Alpes on Saturday evening, Perpignan emerged triumphant over Grenoble in the Top 14 accession play-off, and in so doing remain in the French top flight for a third consecutive season.
After dominating the second half, Perpignan clinched a well-deserved 33-19 victory, scoring four tries while conceding just one.
As per rules introduced in the 2017/18 season, the 14th placed Top 14 team is automatically relegated to the ProD2, while 13th placed team play the runner-up of the ProD2 play-off, with the winner taking up the final place in the Top 14 for the following season.
The match started with a bang Perpignan wasted no time making their presence felt through imposing 6’4, 145kg second-row, Posolo Tuilagi. The giant son of Henry and nephew of Manu Tuilagi crashed over the try line in the sixth minute, courtesy of a well-executed move along the touchline.
Grenoble promptly responded. wit the teams exchanging penalty goals, with Tristan Tedder scoring for the Catalans and Romain Trouilloud retaliating for the Isérois. iT Grenoble that went into the the break in the lead after Romain Barthélemy capitalized on a sublime attacking maneuver to notch a try just before the halftime whistle, giving his team a narrow 16-11 lead.
Despite trailing at the break, Perpignan regrouped and launched an impressive second-half comeback. Their hooker, Seilala Lam, powered over the try line from a maul, propelling Perpignan back into the lead at 18-16.
The Catalans, displaying superior physicality and sharpness, continued their assault and extended their advantage through scrum-half Sadek Deghmache’s expertly taken try, following a sequence of swift passes, which extended their lead to 23-16.
Perpignan further stretched their lead, showcasing a more expansive style of rugby as the match wore on. Fly-half Jake McIntyre finished off a mesmerizing team move, dotting down in the corner and stretching the lead to 28-16.
Tedder added the extra points from a difficult angle, effectively securing Perpignan’s Top 14 status with a quarter of the match remaining.
Despite Grenoble’s valiant attempts to stage a comeback, Perpignan’s defense held firm. Grenoble managed to salvage a consolation try in the 70th minute, but it proved insufficient to alter the outcome. The Stade des Alpes reverberated with the energy of 20,000 spectators, creating a pulsating atmosphere that intensified until the final whistle.
Perpignan’s triumph reaffirms their position among France’s rugby elite, while Grenoble will have to make do with another season of ProD2.
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