Carcassonne increase lead at top as French cup is cancelled

Carcassonne go seven points clear at the top of the league table after cruising to a 42-14 win over Villeneuve. The clash between the second and third-placed teams, St Estève-XIII Catalan and Lézignan was postponed following positive Covid tests, as was the Avignon-St Gaudens game.

An end-of-season fixture pile-up is looming, particularly for bottom club St Gaudens, who will be playing other postponed games over the next two weekends.

To avoid further complications, and after a long silence, the Federation has finally announced that the Coupe de France, which was due to be contested this year by the ten Elite 1 clubs only, has been cancelled for the second year running.

Carcassonne found it too easy against a sixth-placed Villeneuve side who put themselves under pressure with numerous handling mistakes. The Canaries led 16-0 after just 15 minutes’ play, full back Sophien Bitigri going over after just 45 seconds, Vincent Albert stepping inside the defence to score and hooker Mathieu Khedimi forcing his way through from dummy-half, Clément Herrero goaling twice. Villeneuve’s Hamza Bachoukh, promoted to stand-off, touched down from Pita Godinet’s pass and hooker William Ousty went over from dummy-half, but in between Bitigri added his second, giving a 20-8 half-time score.
With Fijian prop Jo Drodrolagi and home-grown second rower Bastien Escamilla outstanding, Carcassonne hardly missed Lucas Albert, who did not reappear in the second period owing to a knee injury. Bitigri ran in his third try, Vincent Albert his second after a 90-metre sprint and winger Georgy Gambaro scored two late tries, while a disappointing Villeneuve could only muster a Lasarusa Tabu try in reply.

Equally disappointing has been Albi’s entire season. After failing to qualify for the top six, they fell at home to Palau, two places below, who led from the start to inflict a 24-14 defeat. The Broncos quickly established a 12-0 lead that Albi could not overhaul, though Clément Tailhades hit back with a try on the half-hour. Palau surged ahead to 18-4 as winger Mike Parenti seized a loose ball to go 80 metres to score under the posts. After the break, Albi winger Nittim Pedrero reduced the margin before Palau’s Julien Berdu crossed to seal the win.

Toulouse, who had beaten Limoux in January and had come close to upsetting Carcassonne two weeks ago, were hammered at the Stade de l’Aiguille. Leading 28-0 at the break, Limoux cantered to a 64-0 victory and move up to third with two matches left to play. Stand-off Allan Torreilles kicked ten goals, full back Zac Santo posted three tries and forwards Romain Puso and Benjamin Vergniol two each.

Albi 14 Palau 24
Carcassonne 42 Villeneuve 14
Limoux 64 Toulouse 0
Avignon v St Gaudens postponed
Lézignan v St Estève-XIII Catalan postponed

Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 April
Lézignan v Villeneuve
Palau v St Gaudens
St Estève-XIII Catalan v Albi

Elite 1 League Table

St Estève-XIII Catalan14113341225415836
St Gaudens132113202430-2289

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