Top 14: tops and flops of a unique season

No one will forget this 2020-2021 season, not even the spectators relegated to their sofa, behind closed doors requires. On the field, the suspense was entire until the end of an interminable exercise, undermined by the postponed matches, also sucked up by two European finals in the same season. We have established four performance categories for the 14 top French rugby clubs.

1. They are in their places. And at the first, a Stade Toulousain which left nothing to its rivals; neither in the Top 14 nor in the Champions Cup since the Haut-Garonnais club achieved a double that only Toulon had achieved until then, in 2014. French champion in 2019, Toulouse retained its title and was once again exact at the meeting -you. In beefy.

La Rochelle, Bordeaux, but also Racing and Clermont can finally be satisfied with their place in the top 6. The Rochelais undoubtedly aimed a little better than a final (lost), but the apprenticeship tax was undoubtedly essential for this club. The UBB, semi-finalist, does not have to be ashamed, not sure that its workforce allows it to touch the tops, at least for the time being.

Racing and ASM have had difficult times, have not always been consistent and dominant but their place in the top 6 is more in line with their status, even if for them too, the ambitions were a bit higher. These two clubs also suffered at the end of the absence of several major players.

Stade Toulousain, set to last

2. They responded well. They had started badly, even badly crossed, but in the last part of the season their performances allowed them to raise their heads. Brive is part of this category while at the beginning of December, its ranking (13th) let fear the worst. A good stint in the first months of the year (until the end of April) clearly gave air to the Corrèze club which removed the specter of a tense end of the season.

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The Stade Français (last of the class in March 2020 during the end of the season) and especially Castres have also made a positive change of course and found a pace conducive to a good comeback in the overall standings. The CO failed for the qualification but cannot forget that at the end of December, he was sailing in very troubled waters (13th place). As for the Parisians, reaching the top 6 was almost unexpected at the end of March.

21st title for Toulouse, in his hand in the final against La Rochelle

3. They didn’t go the distance. Lyon and even more Toulon have lost almost everything in the last weeks of the competition. 3rd in the ranking at the beginning of December, the LOU had found its cruising speed and had overcome several episodes of Covid in the fall. Two failures in a row during the end of the year celebrations (in Brive and against Castres) broke the toy a bit.

The fall of the RCT was harder. Not so much on his results at the start of the season but on his sporting pretensions and his very “internationalized” workforce. The Var club paid dearly for the winter period of the Tournament, with four defeats in six days, including two at home against La Rochelle and Bayonne. Toulon did not hang on to the finals, or even a Champions Cup qualification.

4. They were disappointed. Despite limited resources, Agen should have done better than this zero score: 26 defeats in 26 games. The spirit was not there, even to save the honor. Sometimes admirable in courage, the Aviron bayonnais has experienced crippling moments of weakness. But the biggest disappointment remains his bankruptcy in the play-off against Biarritz.

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And then, two clubs, with the means (financial in particular) yet substantial, were not worthy of their ranks. These are Pau and Montpellier, who fought almost to the end for maintenance. The more convincing end of the course of the MHR will not remove the upheavals and the almost chronic inconstancy of the Hérault club.

Christophe Buron

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