Montpellier are leading the way following the opening four rounds of the Top 14, but Les Cistes’ dominance is only one of the tales to emerge from France.
Former Toulon centre Tom May casts his eye over rounds three and four to pick out some of the overseas players who have left an impression on him. You might be surprised to learn that a few of them have ended up in the Top 14.
Ryan Lamb (La Rochelle)
It may have gone under the radar for many but Lamb is now donning the black and yellow of La Rochelle and made his first Top 14 start for them in round three against Clermont. The home side smashed the Top 14 heavyweights 51-20 and Lamb was involved in one of the tries of the season when La Rochelle ran the length from the first kick. He used his fantastic passing skills to great effect to find Uini Atonio and Levani Botia to help break the defensive line. Lamb also kicked four conversions and one penalty. A great performance, but it wasn’t enough to keep in the team for round four.
Steffon Armitage (Pau)
Captaining Pau for the first game at their renovated stadium, Armitage would have been keen to reverse the defeats suffered against Toulon and Toulouse in the opening two rounds. After the break Pau were 25-7 up and their skipper led from the front, chasing down a kick upfield to make yet another turnover and win his side four precious points. He’s got No. 8 on his back at the moment and his ball control at the base has been good bearing in mind the pitch at Pau is already pretty grim. Will be key if Pau are to continue winning.
Shane Geraghty (Stade Francais)
Another player you may be looking for among various team sheets. Geraghty has now signed for Stade Francais as a medical joker, covering for injury initially but there’s no doubt should he perform he has the chance of a long-term deal. Especially at Stade where they are again struggling. He played 20 minutes in their drubbing in Bordeaux and didn’t get a huge amount of time to show what he can do. Stade are looking fragile, and they may need him to steady the ship.
David Strettle (Clermont)
Like most of the Clermont squad, Strettle will want to forget round three and La Rochelle. He was left to pick up the pieces, chasing down Gabriel Lacroix as La Rochelle scored first and was then trampled by Jone Qovu and his substantial 310 pounds frame in the build up to the next score. Far from enjoyable for the winger. That said, Strettle was on the end of a great set piece move this weekend against Brive and finished well as he received the ball from Camille Lopez behind a decoy runner. Nothing he could do but score really! More competition for the wings at Clermont this year but Strettle will fancy scoring more than most.
Ruan Pienaar (Montpellier)
Pienaar kicked five penalties and one conversion in round three to help Montpellier to a 17-22 win over hosts Castres, which was a good win in the pouring rain for Vern Cotter’s side. He gave them fantastic field position in a game where that was key. Pienaar started again this weekend when Montpellier hosted Toulon and kicked three conversions and one penalty. Montpellier’s backline is pretty tasty anyway but when you have someone like Pienaar making great decisions about when to give them the ball it looks easy at times. Started his French rugby career in brilliant fashion.
NOTEABLE MENTION: Chris Ashton for an incredible finish in the corner while being hunted by four defenders.