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Top 14: a more playful Castres, but also more inconsistent

Aside from the current ordeal of the red lantern Oyonnax, Castres is on the worst dynamic of the Top 14.

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Top 14: a more playful Castres, but also more inconsistent

Aside from the current ordeal of the red lantern Oyonnax, Castres is on the worst dynamic of the Top 14. Beaten last week by a convalescent Racing 92 (21-23), the Tarnais conceded their third loss at home of the season. Incongruous for a team which had long made its Pierre-Fabre stadium an impregnable fortress. Before giving in to the Ile-de-France residents, the CO had fallen twice on the road against Toulouse first (33-6) then against the Lyonnais (34-19). Going from 3rd place at the beginning of March to 7th before this 20th day.

The latest setback was a headache. Especially after a failed first half. What Castres manager Jeremy Davidson confirmed: “We are frustrated, we gave Racing so many gifts with all the points given in the first half. Returning to the locker room with a 14-point gap (20-6) was hard to swallow. However, we came back at the start of the second period with a lot of motivation and we fought to reverse the trend. Losing a match like that is really hard..."

The Castres Olympique season looks like a roller coaster. After a rather successful start to the year (three defeats in the first nine days), the club of president Pierre-Yves Revol experienced a first slump, suffering four defeats in a row in the Top 14. Backlash, then, with three successes allowing him to climb onto the podium. Before relapsing again and conceding these last three setbacks. Far too inconsistent.

Long renowned for their rough play, the “painful” Castres have nevertheless added a string to their bow this year, by offering a more offensive and open game. Before the 20th day of this weekend, they have the 3rd best attack in the Top 14 (485 points), behind Toulouse (546) and Toulon (492). Well helped in this by a colony of Fijians fans of the game on the move: Filipo Nakosi, Vilimoni Botitu, Adrea Cocagi (released to attend a family funeral in Fiji) and other Josaia Raisuqe, without forgetting Leone Nakarawa, with his always formidable passes after contact. An offensive transformation initiated since the arrival of manager Jeremy Davidson - who was not, however, known for his crazy flights of fancy when he coached Brive - who works in concert with David Darricarrère, the club's emblematic coach.

“There are the Fijians, but also the French flair of the French. It’s an osmosis between everyone,” explained recently the young opening half Louis Le Brun (22 years old, currently injured in the ankle), more comfortable in this airy game his predecessor at the position Benjamin Urdapilleta. Other players to participate in this new momentum: winger Nathanaël Hulleu arrived from Vannes (Pro D2) and former All Blacks center, Jack Goodhue. Toulouse center Pierre-Louis Barassi recently recognized that “Castres is a much more playful team than before. Afterwards, it still retains a strong DNA of combat and aggression. We must not forget that either.”

It remains to gain consistency. No more yo-yoing, one day yes, one day no. The Wilfrid Hounkpatin affair, suspected of domestic violence (he had been dismissed then recalled), has surely shaken up a club which does not usually make waves. To make matters worse, the absences due to injury of senior players like Julien Dumora, Geoffrey Palis or Tyler Ardron were cruelly felt, particularly in leadership.

“To achieve our objective (qualification for the final phase), our team must very quickly demonstrate its ability to express its full potential more regularly,” pointed out President Pierre-Yves Revol before the match against Racing. He even added: “No one would understand that the CO, with its historical DNA, would not be able to deliver a great performance at such a moment.” Missed. And another big match is looming in Perpignan, which has given itself a little breathing space at the bottom of the rankings by signing two successes. With even more pressure.

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