French Elite Championship play-offs put back with top spot all but decided

James Gordon

Photo credit: Alain François

Carcassonne will be looking to become French champions once again after all but securing top spot in the Elite Championship.

A 42-18 win over nearest rivals Limoux in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final has them three points clear at the top with just one game remaining.

It will be the fourth time in eight seasons that the Canaries have finished top of the pile – though on the previous three occasions they have then gone on to be beaten in the Grand Final.

In the modern era, since the French Elite One Championship was established in 2002/03, Carcassonne have won two titles – but lost the Grand Final on four occasions.

As well as last year’s win, they were champions in 2012, when they beat league leaders Pia 26-20 in the final following a thrilling 31-30 semi-final victory over Avignon.

But they were beaten in 2015, 2019 and 2021 after finishing top, as well as losing to Limoux in 2016, which was the last time the team finishing top has gone on to become champions.

In the five seasons since – another was lost due to COVID – the league leaders lost the Grand Final, with the exception of 2018 when St Esteve lost in their play-off semi-final.

French Elite One Championship Grand Finals list

(league leaders in brackets)

  • 2021/22 – Carcassonne 20-16 Limoux (Limoux)
  • 2020/21 – Lezignan 16-12 Carcassonne (Carcassonne)
  • 2019/20 – No season (COVID)
  • 2018/19 – St Esteve 32-24 Carcassonne (Carcassonne)
  • 2017/18 – Avignon 30-28 Limoux (St Esteve)
  • 2016/17 – Limoux 24-22 Lezignan (Lezignan)
  • 2015/16 – Limoux 26-24 Carcassonne (Limoux)
  • 2014/15 – Toulouse 20-12 Carcassonne (Carcassonne)
  • 2013/14 – Toulouse 38-12 Lezignan (Limoux)
  • 2012/13 – Pia 33-26 St Esteve (Pia)
  • 2011/12 – Carcassonne 26-20 Pia (Pia)
  • 2010/11 – Lezignan 17-12 Limoux (Lezignan)
  • 2009/10 – Lezignan 32-22 Pia (Lezignan)
  • 2008/09 – Lezignan 40-32 Limoux (Limoux)
  • 2007/08 – Lezignan 26-16 Pia (Lezignan)
  • 2006/07 – Pia 20-16 Lezignan (Pia)
  • 2005/06 – Pia 21-18 Toulouse (Pia)
  • 2004/05 – UTC 66-16 Toulouse (UTC)
  • 2003/04 – St Gaudens 14-10 UTC (UTC)
  • 2002/03 – Villeneuve 31-18 St Gaudens

One round to go

There’s still a chance that Carcassonne could miss out on top spot, but it seems unlikely as their final game is against bottom team Villeneuve.

Even a defeat by less than 13 earns Carcassonne a point that would be enough to secure the title, and Villeneuve have managed just two wins all season.

Limoux will have to put the disappointment of last week’s defeat behind them quickly, as they need to secure second place under pressure from both Lezignan and Albi, who meet in the final round.

A win for Limoux at home to Toulouse will secure second and a week off in the play-offs.

But a defeat opens the door for Lezignan, and even Albi could sneak second if they beat Lezignan and Limoux don’t earn a bonus point.

Joining those three and Carcassonne in the play-offs are Pia, who have enjoyed a solid season and sit fifth.

The final spot will be decided in a do-or-die season finale between Avignon and St Gaudens. Avignon have a point advantage in the table, so whoever wins that one will take sixth spot.

French Elite Championship league table (Mar 28)

Third plays sixth and fourth plays fifth, before the two winners go through to play 1st or 2nd away.

Play-offs postponed by a week

The play-offs will now take place on the weekend of May 6/7, having initially been slated for the week before (April 29/30).

But the decision has been made by the French Federation to postpone them for a week due to the international between England and France in Warrington on April 29.

It means there will now be three weeks between the final game of the regular season and the first round of the play-offs.

It could have been a lot different for Limoux, who led twice early on against Carcassonne last weekend.

Tries from Zachary Santo and Pat Templeman had them 6-0 and 12-4 to the good early on, but Carcassonne led 24-12 at half-time and didn’t look back.

There was praise too for the off-field efforts of the Canaries too.

Coach Frederic Camel told TreizeMondial: “I am very happy for my players. The best response to criticism could only come from the field.

“We redoubled our efforts all week, and the investment paid off. However, we have to remain measured because we haven’t won anything. We will get back to work now to prepare well for the Coupe de France semi-final against Avignon.

“The weekend was a complete success. Our leaders had made this match an event and we can only salute and congratulate their work. A meal with 550 people, a well-stocked stadium, a concert to end, it was a great party. The next day was just as successful for the academy for the Jean-Marie Grégoire tournament with a lot of people despite the showers.”

Elite Championship results – Round 17

  • Carcassonne 42-18 Limoux
  • Lezignan 37-18 Avignon
  • Albi 40-8 St Esteve
  • St Gaudens 34-10 Villeneuve
  • Toulouse 24-30 Pia

Remaining Elite Championship fixtures

  • Villeneuve v Toulouse (April 8/9 – re-arranged from round one)
  • Limoux v Toulouse
  • Avignon v St Gaudens
  • Albi v Lezignan
  • Villeneuve v Carcassonne
  • Pia v St Esteve

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