Oyonnax and Grenoble, the first two in the regular phase of Pro D2, logically meet in the final on Saturday (9:05 p.m.) in Toulouse for a summit far from their Alps with multiple challenges: a shield, a climb to the Top 14 and regional supremacy.
The "Oyomen" have so flown over the season (23 wins in 30 matches, 24 points ahead of second) that, for once, the status of favorite is not really open to discussion.
“We have never hidden our ambitions. We are where we wanted to be from the start, ”assumes their English manager Joe El Abd, winner as a player of the Ain club’s first Pro D2 title in 2013.
“We had a great first half of the season. We also know that last week (in the semi-finals), it was reset, ”he adds. "We have to be ready to play our best game of the season."
Guaranteed for a long time to be in the last four, Oyonnax struggled last week on his ground to get rid of Vannes (26-21). A “booster shot” for captain Tommy Raynaud and his teammates after several weeks with “less intensity”.
The Grenoble residents overcame the Mont-de-Marsan obstacle (36-27) with the attacking enthusiasm they do not want to deny in an expected opposition of styles in the face of the pragmatism and cold mastery of their rival.
“We are an excited team. It's part of our state of mind, to please, to be crazy, ”explains their manager Fabien Gengenbacher. “We got burned sometimes. We have to find the right balance.”
The FCG, which has been playing in the second division since 2019, has already lost twice against Oyonnax this season, including a return match enamelled with five cards (four yellow, one red) in Isère in March.
"There is a territory to defend," asks Grenoble captain Steve Blanc-Mappaz. “We know that against them, each time, there is a little animosity, chambering. We will have to keep our nerves”.
"It's a relocated derby, but we think more about the final, about being champion, than about winning a derby", answers the opposing third row Kevin Lebreton.
Only the winner will win his ticket to the elite on Saturday. The unfortunate finalist will have a second chance next week during a play-off, at home, against the penultimate of the Top 14, Perpignan or Pau.