The French Elite 1 Championship got underway at the weekend, but only after clubs opted to start the season in light of the ongoing challenges with the coronavirus pandemic.
Elite 1 was added to the list of sports exempt from the curfews being put in place due to the health crisis – although the other domestic competitions have been stopped.
Games must be played behind closed doors, while clubs have been asked to provide details on the income they will miss out on from no ticket sales for a month of the campaign.
Only three of the five scheduled games on opening weekend went ahead though, with two postponed due to COVID-19.
First weekend of action
Toulouse edged St Gaudens 26-24, with Justin Bouscayrol scoring the decisive conversion three minutes from time after Matt Ross had scored under the posts.
St Gaudens had taken control of the game either side of half-time, overturning an early 6-0 deficit to lead 24-10.
But when Pierre-Jean Lima’s converted try got Toulouse back within four points with a quarter of an hour to play, it was they that came back to pinch victory.
Former Super League prop Anthony Mullally made his Carcassonne debut as they battered Albi 37-4.
Centre Vincent Albert scored a hat-trick of tries and there was a debut try for former Castleford youngster Robbie Storey.
The Albi team featured an English prop of their own, Tyler Walton, who was announced as having signed from Newcastle Thunder last week.
Limoux got the season underway with a 22-12 win over St Esteve.
Leandre Torres had the honour of scoring the first try of the new campaign, as Limoux recovered from the early loss of skipper Maxime Herold to lead 12-0.
But St Esteve levelled the scores by half-time through scores from Ugo Perez and birthday boy Allan Torreilles.
A yellow card for St Esteve’s Tiaki Chan handed the initiative to Limoux, who scored the two decisive tries through Maxime Peault and Pierre-Louis Bourrel while Chan was in the sin-bin.
St Esteve coach Justin Murphy said: “Physically, the Limouxins were superior. We need to focus on our efforts and the decisions that we can control and improve. We had opportunities to control the game but we didn’t and Limoux are a good team that leaves few opportunities.”
Palau’s trip to Villeneuve was cancelled after the Broncos reported five positive cases within their squad, while three positive cases at Avignon put paid to their game against Lezignan.
French club budgets revealed
The French press has revealed the budgets for nine of the 10 French Elite 1 Championship sides for the 2020/21 season.
The three top spending clubs are St Esteve, Lezignan and Carcassonne, all spending in the region of €700,000 (approx £630,000).
- Lezignan €700,000
- St Esteve €700,000
- Carcassonne €700,000
- Villeneuve €500,000
- Albi €450,000
- Limoux €450,000
- Avignon €350,000
- St Gaudens €280,000
- Palau €200,000
- Toulouse N/A
The match between St Esteve and Toulouse will be broadcast live on French TV channel ViaOccitanie on Saturday (4pm kick-off). There will be particular attention on the game involving the two reserve sides of Catalans Dragons and Toulouse, follow the latter’s public bid for a place in Super League in 2021.
The women’s Championship has been suspended until January 2021, with just one game having taken place so far – between Catalan Goddesses and Lescure.
Elite 1 Championship Results (October 31/November 1)
- Limoux 22-12 St Esteve
- Carcassonne 37-4 Albi
- Villeneuve P-P Palau
- Toulouse 26-24 St Gaudens
- Avignon P-P Lezignan
Elite 1 Championship Fixtures (November 7/8)
- St Esteve v Toulouse
- Villeneuve v Lezignan
- Albi v Avignon
- St Gaudens v Carcassonne
- Palau v Limoux
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