Carcassonne chase a treble as French Elite season hits the business end

James Gordon

Photo credit: A Francois

Carcassonne are leading the way on all fronts as the French Elite Championship reaches the end of its regular season this weekend.

The Canaries will secure top spot in the table with anything bar a defeat by more than 12 points against bottom club Villeneuve, who have won just three games all season.

That will secure the first leg of a possible three chances of glory for Frederic Camel’s side in the next month.

A 46-14 thrashing of Avignon last week put them in to the final of the Lord Derby Cup, where they will face Albi, who beat Limoux 34-28.

Carcassonne are the holders of the Lord Derby Cup, winning the last time it was played back in 2018/19 by defeating St Esteve 22-6 in the final. The last three seasons have seen the competition postponed due to COVID.

They are also the reigning French champions, having beaten Limoux 20-16 in last year’s Grand Final.

It gives them the opportunity to win the championship and the cup, as well as finishing top of the regular season table – a rare treble.

When they won the cup back in 2018/19, they also finished top of the league table – but they lost 32-24 to St Esteve in the Grand Final.

Although there is no league leaders’ shield type trophy in France, finishing top is still a fine achievement.

Carcassonne back-rower Corey Mulhall told TreizeMondial: “This year, the team’s goal is to win both the Cup and the championship. I am playing alongside some very good players, and I’m sure that we can beat any team if we turn up ready to play.”

Who else is in the French Elite Championship play-off race?

Beneath Carcassonne there is a three-way battle for the crucial second spot, which earns direct qualification for the play-off semi-finals.

Limoux have the box seat with 41 points and a superior points difference, and they face Toulouse at home in their final game.

The other two sides in the race, Lezignan (41pts) and Albi (39pts), face each other in a game that will be broadcast live on viàOccitanie and Sport in France.

Albi loose forward Chase Bernard told TreizeMondial: “I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage playing at home for the game itself, but having all of our passionate Tigers supporters at the game will make the occasion that much more special to play in front of them.

“My goal as an individual is to give my all to the team every game, and contribute to us (hopefully) advancing to the big matches of the championship.

“A successful season for me personally would be nothing short of a Grand Final win!”

Pia are guaranteed to finish fifth, while the final play-off spot is a shoot-out between Avignon (23pts) and St Gaudens (22pts), who face each other in the final round.

HISTORY: List of French Elite Championship Grand Finals

Final round of the regular season (Apr 15/16)

Limoux v Toulouse (Sat, 3pm)
Albi v Lezignan (Sat, 5pm)
Avignon v St Gaudens (Sat, 5pm)
Villeneuve v Carcassonne (Sat, 7pm)
Pia v St Esteve (Sun, 3pm)

Lord Derby Cup Final (Sat April 22)

Carcassonne v Albi (played at Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan)

Play-off schedule

Preliminary finals (May 6/7)
3rd v 6th
4th v Pia

Semi finals (May 13/14)
1st v Winner 4th/Pia
2nd v Winner 3rd/6th

Final (May 27/28)