Toulon will host Castres at Stade Mayol in the French Top 14 playoffs quarterfinals, with the winner of this match set to earn a semifinal clash against La Rochelle.
Toulon has been really solid after being knocked out in the Champions Cup quarterfinals, going on to win 4 consecutive matches in the Top 14 and finishing on the 4th place. The 4th spot was a good performance for Toulon after they struggled with injuries and poor form earlier in the seaosn, and they now look ready to make a push for the title.
Castres lost 3 of their last 5 games in the Top 4, but winning in 2 of the last 3 rounds was just enough to grant them a playoff position – as they finished 5th after looking like they could miss qualification at one point in April. They never had any chance of earning a home quarterfinal though, so they will have to travel to Toulon, which doesn`t give them the greatest chance of advancing.Bet on Toulon vs. Castres and get your 100% (100 Eur) bonus at Ohmbet.com now!
Team news & lineups:
Bryan Habana (Toulon) and Mihaita Lazar (Castres) are the only notable new absentees for the two teams.
Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Juandré Kruger, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Laurent Delboulbès
Castres: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Julien Caminati, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Damien Tussac, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Antoine Tichit
As it is usually the case in the French Top 14, both teams are particularly strong at home and poor away. Toulon won 11 out of 13 home matches this season, while Castres won just 2 of 13 away from home. Playing at Stade Mayol will be a monumental task for the visitors and they do not look like having a real shot to win, especially with Toulon being the superior team and playing so well lately.
Toulon has an amazing collection of stars in its ranks, but they are a rather old team, and that was a problem for them at some points this season, with injuries and fatigue kicking in. However, they are now healthy and perfectly constructed to perform in the playoffs, when there are no other distractions and the schedule is lighter.
Castres is an honest and disciplined team, but it`s hard to see them coping with the explosiveness of Toulon, especially away from home. Castres will try to make this a physical battle, but Toulon can hold their own in the scrum and should dominate open play through their explosiveness and line breaking abilities. They also have Leigh Halfpenny to kick home the penalties and he alone should earn them 3-6 extra points with his ability to successfully kick at goal from over 50 meters.
The last meeting between the two clubs took place just one month ago at the same venue, with Toulon winning 23 – 14. However, that was one of the best away matches Castres played all season, they were at an incredible level and still ended up trailing 20-0 with half an hour to go. They trimmed the deficit at the end, but it can`t be good for their morale that despite playing so well, they still never had any chance to win.
My tip is Toulon to cover the 10 point handicap. The line is pretty accurately set by the bookies, but I still trust the hosts to win this by about 15. Prediction: Toulon – Castres 30 – 15.