With the TOP 14 taking a break until Christmas, let’s take a look at the highlights observed through 12 weeks of competition.
It should be noted that the TOP 14 is becoming more and more attractive for fans with increased action. There have been more tries, more points and more time spent playing this season compared to last. Points and tries have been constantly increasing since the 2014-2015 season, the year STATS became the official statistics provider of the TOP 14 for the LNR. Back then, an average of 3.9 tries and 43.8 points were scored per game, while this season those numbers have increased to 5.2 and 48.8.
TOP 14 is also showcasing more drama with many more teams in the race for winning the Bouclier de Brennus. Surprises have come from Lyon OU and Castres Olympique, who played extremely well and will be serious challengers this season. Stade Rochelais are also keeping their standards from last year when they topped the league during the regular season before losing the semi-final to RC Toulonnais. They are currently first in the league after they defeated former leader Montpellier Hérault Rugby on Saturday 2nd December. These two teams have been very impressive so far while displaying incredible skills in attack. They’ve both scored 35 points and averaged more than three tries per game.
Let’s not forget about Stade Toulousain and RC Toulonnais, despite many changes in their coaching staffs during the mid-season. They’ll have their say with the likes of Thomas Ramos (Stade Toulousain, TOP 14 No. 2 points scorer) and Chris Ashton (RC Toulonnais, TOP 14 tries leader with 13 scored). Racing 92, the 2016 champions, will also be close to the playoff with their galaxy of top players – Dan Carter, Pat Lambie, Leone Nakarawa (the league’s second best carrier and leader for offloads).
Surprisingly enough, many of TOP 14’s top players so far are playing for teams that had a difficult start. Ben Botica (US Oyonnax) is the leader in points scored (134), while Willem Alberts (Stade Français) leads in tackles (already 200 made). The suspense will be intense even at the lower half of the league table as teams will fight very hard to maintain their position in the TOP 14 and not go down to PRO D2. US Oyonnax and SU Agen are currently closing the ladder, but they upset several big TOP 14 teams recently and could close the gap separating them from upper teams in the coming weeks.
TOP 14 returns on 22nd December for the last two rounds of 2017.