The Runner Sports

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly From The Opening Round Of The Top 14

The 2017/18 Top 14 season kicked off this last weekend. As ever, there were highlights, lowlights, and one or two no lights. Here, then, is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the competition’s opening seven games.

The Good

Three tries in the opening quarter of the encounter between Bordeaux and Clermont — including that Rémy Grosso touchdown for the visitors following Nick Abendanon’s scorching run and no-look pass, which came after a cheeky dummy from Rémi Lamerat and Alivereti Raka’s hard-running line break 65m from the tryline — were breathtaking enough.

But the home side’s comeback from 18-8 down after 33 minutes to beat the defending champions, 35-25, scoring two of the three tries in the game’s closing 20 minutes, was simply remarkable. Perennial underachievers Bordeaux, now under former Italy coach Jacques Brunel, may well surprise a few more sides in the French top flight. It was entirely appropriate that this was the flagship match of the opening weekend, and it just about made up for…

The Bad

Whatever the sport, TV companies that have paid a fortune to broadcast live games want the new season to kick off with a cracker — a high-bar setter to give the competition an early lift. With hindsight, then, the powers-that-be at French broadcaster Canal Plus will regret opting for Oyonnax v Toulouse as their first match of the 2017/18 campaign. They probably should have known better, because the truth is it was never likely to be the most exciting game of the weekend. Or even the second most exciting. Or the third. Best it could hope for was the sixth or seventh — out of seven. It was dull. It was so error-strewn that local authorities could charge them for fly-tipping. And Oyonnax displayed the attacking intent of a sea cucumber. Maybe Canal Plus just wanted to get the game out of the way and be done with it. It’s French enough thinking to be just about plausible. It certainly makes a little more sense than…

The Ugly

What must Stade Francais’ new owner be thinking, after seeing his side race to a 13-0 lead at home against Lyon inside the opening 15 minutes, only to lose 25-16? This is the first match of a brutal minimum 26-game Top 14 season, with the small matter of European competition to also consider, so we’re not at panic stations just yet, but billionaire Hans-Peter Wild will expect nothing less than a home victory next time out against La Rochelle. It was always going to be a tough first season for the club’s new head coach Greg Cooper, but this was the worst possible start, and one that really should not have happened.

James Harrington
Follow Me

James Harrington

Cheese-eating, wine-drinking, France-living freelance sports journalist. Doting husband of one. Sickeningly proud father of three
James Harrington
Follow Me