It’s a timid start to the weekend for the French clubs involved in European fields, for the start of the final stages. Stade Français lost their Franco-French duel against Lyon, Racing stumbled heavily against the Lions, while La Rochelle and Toulon continued their journey in the Challenge Cup and the Champions Cup.
The Franco-French shock: the Stade Français eaten by the LOU
This April 1 turned into a bad joke for the Stade Français. While they had this round of 16 in hand, Gonzalo Quesada’s players let it slip away in the very last minutes, for a finally wide setback against LOU (24-41). Exhausted after a big battle, the Ile-de-France residents slipped at Jean-Bouin, where they were leading by 12 points two-thirds of the way after Theo Dachary’s corner try (47th, 21-9).
But as since the start of the season, Lyon have not given up in a game as tight as their positions in the Top 14, where the two teams are only separated by one point. The turning point will come in the 51st minute with a penalty try for Peniasi Dakuwaqa’s voluntary forward (21-16), sent off ten minutes. The match then changed, the LOU taking advantage of their numerical superiority to regain their delay before driving the point home in the last minutes on two tries from Guillaume Marchand (78th, 24-34) and Ethan Dumortier (80th, 24- 41).
Brawling men Xavier Garbajosa inflicted on Stade Français their second defeat in a row at home, and qualified for the quarter-finals. They will find Toulon there, who got rid of the Cheetahs a little earlier (36-21), carried in particular by an inspired Thomas Salles (one try and three transformations). Toulon-Lyon, a remake of the final of the last edition, won by LOU.
The disappointment: even at 15 against 14, Racing eaten by the Lions
Racing 92 will not be at the quarterfinals either. Knocked out of the great European Cup, the Ciel et Blancs experienced a complicated discovery of the Challenge Cup. They were swept 51-28 in South Africa by raging Lions, and much more bleeding despite being outnumbered for more than an hour. After winning the derby against Stade Français on the last day of Top 14, it was with a largely overhauled team that Racing presented itself (14 changes).
She didn’t make the cut as Emmanuel Tshituka’s expulsion for an elbow gave her a great opportunity to overturn a badly started match. Magnificent in resistance and commitment, the South African team had already passed 4 tries to the French at the break (27-14). Without Regan Grace (Achilles tendon), Bernard Le Roux (concussion), Camille Chat (wrist), Finn Russell (knee) or even Gaël Fickou (on the return), the Ile-de-France residents showed defensive naivety.
The four tries of Thomas Moukoro (12th, 29th), Ben Volavola (48th) and Donovan Taofifenua (59th) were not enough, these Lions were too strong, passing seven tries even to one less. The European course ends there for Racing, which will be able to concentrate on the Championship. Friday, Clermont had qualified against Bristol (33-26), not Brive against the Scarlets (19-7). There will therefore be three French teams at the quarter-final table.
Deliverance: La Rochelle snatches its place in the quarters
While waiting for Exeter-Montpellier (1.30 p.m.) and Toulouse-Blue Bulls (4 p.m.) on Sunday, La Rochelle had to fight to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, but honored their status as defending champions. Winner at the end of the home end of the English of Gloucester (29-26), the second in the French Championship, jostled and on the brink of the abyss five minutes from the end, went to snatch victory on a last try from Teddy Thomas ( 78th), author of a double in this match. The Marcel-Deflandre stadium could ignite, on April 8 it will receive the winner of Saracens-Ospreys in a quarter that promises to be boiling.