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Top 16: Clean sweep by last season’s Top 8

The Top 16 has reached the halfway point in France.

Montpellier on their way to an 88-0 win over Rouen

Last weekend was Week 7 in the regular season in France – the midway point in the group phase.

For the first time all eight of the fixtures were between former Top 8 and promoted teams, and all eight games were won by teams from last season’s Top 8

Some of the wins were huge. The two pool leaders in particular ran riot against teams from the foot of the pools. Montpellier in Pool 1 scored 14 unanswered tries in an 88-0 win over Rouen, and in Pool 2 Toulouse managed 12 tries in a 78-0 win over Tarbes. Also in Pool 2 Bobigny travelled up to Caen and came away with a 72-12 victory, while in Pool 1 Romagnat saw off Villelonguet 46-3.

Other games were rather closer, however. In Pool 1 Rennes only narrowly came out on top after a real nail-bitter at home to Lons. The visitors lead five times, but each time Rennes came back, with their winning score coming after 78 minutes, final score 29-25.

Also in Pool 1 Blagnac were push all the way by Stade Francais, with the Parisians having the best of the second half by just falling short, last year’s semi-finalists just holding on 22-19.

In Pool 2 Grenoble are still trying to re-find their form after their Olympic break, by still managed to lead 12-10 at halftime at Bayonne, but the home team took command in the second period, three tries in fifteen minutes turning the game on its head, Bayonne eventually running out comfortable 38-17 winners.

Finally new-look Lille travelled to Bordeaux, and were behind after just eight minutes with the home team driving over from a 5m lineout. A penalty after 14 minutes pulled Lille back, and then just before the break a Michelle Tch completed a fine team try, touching down the foot of the posts, and Lille were 10-5 ahead. There was still time for Bordeaux to slot a penalty, but at halftimes Lille lead 10-8.

Shortly after the break a penalty from Alex Pertus extended the lead to five points again, precipitating a tense final half-hour which ended with Lille on the attack but unable to break down the Bordeaux defence – but still coming away with a 13-8 victory.

With the Top 16 now going into an autumn international break, Montpellier (34 pts) and Blagnac (29 pts) are well clear in Pool 1, with Rennes (20), Stade Francais (19) and Romagnat (17) disputing third place. In Pool 2, Toulouse lead on 29 pts – and with a game in hand – over Bayonne (27). Bobigny are third on 19, and followed by Bordeaux (15), Grenoble (14 – 2 games in hand) and Lille (14 – one game in hand).