It was, for bookies and fans of certain sides in the Top 14, the best of weeks.
It was, for many a Top 14 pundit, the worst of weeks, as the results made a mockery of what they believed should have been a series of relatively straightforward forecasts. Still, at least it will keep us all honest for the rest of the season.
The expensively assembled new-look Racing Metro can’t even claim they were made to look second rate by an even more expensively assembled Toulon. They might get away with fourth rate, but the fact remains Racing were beaten 41-14 by simple, straightforward rugby. Brilliantly executed, but just simple, straightforward rugby nonetheless. It goes to prove that time is even more important than money when it comes to assembling a title-challenging side.
That fast-fading flower of the Top 14, Stade Francais, meanwhile, proved there is stilla little life in the lily-liveried old bloom yet, as fly-half Jules Plisson kept his cool to land an 80th-minute drop goal under the most intense pressure and snatch a suitably dramatic 27-28 victory from the jaws of defeat at Perpignan.
And Biarritz put their on- and off-field woes behind them for a little while by beating Montpellier 19-12 at home. They were, once again, indebted to pocket battleship Dmitri Yachvili, who scored 14 of their points… not to mention the TV ref, who found reasons to disallow a try for the visitors not one, or two, or three, but four times.
Most ‘experts’ would have put a sizeable chunk of this month’s mortgage money on Clermont being far too classy for Top 14 new boys Oyonnax. And that, as it turned out, would have been a big mistake, as the newly promoted Pro D2 champions ditched their ill-advised gold kit and stuffed the odds and the predictions to record a more-than deserved 30-19 victory to mark their home debut in France’s top division.
More predictably, Castres’ Marcel Garvey took his try tally for the season to three, as he scored twice in the reigning champions’ five-try 34-6 demolition of Grenoble, who looked like they were still suffering the effects of the aftershow party following their opening-weekend win over Toulouse last week.
Speaking of Toulouse, the 2012 Top 14 champions were also on the demolition trail, making up for that defeat by taking apart Bayonne. Luke McAlister scored half of the hosts’ 40-point tally, while their defence held so firm they leaked just one penalty.
The second weekend’s final game was a penalty-strewn 25-12 yawnathon, as Brive’s Mr Accurate, Gaeten Germain, punished an indisciplined Bordeaux at almost every conceivable opportunity, while the visitors’ Pierre Barnard did his best to keep his side in the game – once even trying his luck from 60m. Everyone else, meanwhile, pretty much stood around doing nothing… until Brive’s Sisaro Koyamaibole blundered over the try line almost by mistake midway through the second half to give the scoreline a distinctly flattering look.