La Rochelle did Sale Sharks a favour by hammering Bordeaux Begles on the final weekend of the Top 14 regular season. The 81-12 result moved the Atlantic coast side into fifth spot in the table. That secured a place in next season’s European Champions Cup.
European Challenge Cup champions Clermont Auvergne had already gained a place in the top tier competition. Therefore, the qualifying rules came into play.
And with Saracens having lifted the Champions Cup title this year, the extra qualifying place for next season went to the seventh place finishers in England. That side is Sharks, who can now look forward to playing in the elite tournament.
Elsewhere in France, the play-off draw for teams finishing third to sixth has now taken shape. Racing 92 returned from Agen with a win that gives them home advantage against La Rochelle. Lyon will welcome Montpellier.
The winners of those matches will contest the semi finals against the top two sides from the regular season. Racing or La Rochelle will meet Toulouse and Lyon or Montpellier will face Clermont. Both semis are in Bordeaux on the weekend of 8-9 June. The final takes place the following at the Stade de France the following week.
Missing from the top six are defending champions Castres. They failed to qualify for the latter stages following defeat at home to Toulon.
Meanwhile, Bayonne earned automatic promotion from the second tier PROD2. An injury time penalty saw the Basque outfit squeeze home against Brive, who will play off against Grenoble. The winners of that contest will clinch the final Top 14 spot for next season.
Written by Colin Renton