The regular season in France came to a close last weekend in what could best be described as a tumultuous year. The four semifinal teams – St. Ouen Cougars, Aix en Provence Argonautes, Nice Dauphins and La Courneuve Flash – enter the playoffs almost even with only two losses each – to each other – while the bottom three teams – the Thonon Black Panthers, La Queue-en-Brie Gladiateurs and Elancourt Templiers – only amassed four wins between them.
The defending champion St. Ouen Cougars (7-2) have not been as dominant in 2016 as they were last season when they won the championship without losing a game. They finished this year in first place but still they enter the playoffs in two weeks with some apprehension, and with good reason. They will play La Courneuve Flash from Paris in the semifinals, a Flash team that soundly defeated them a month ago.
The once high flying Nice Dauphins (6-2) who had won six in a row, were brought down to earth with a thud losing the final two regular season games of the year to limp into the playoffs in third place. So instead of hosting a game on the Riviera, the Dauphins will be heading up the road to Aix en Provence for their semifinal.
The fourth team in the playoffs, La Courneuve Flash (6-2-1) have also looked impressive as the season progressed. Although they dropped a 14-0 loss to the Argonautes, they proceeded to beat both the Cougars and Dauphins late in the year, handing Nice their first defeat of the season at that point. They will play the Cougars in the semifinals. The way they manhandled the Cougars on April 30 suggests that that semifinal game is up in the air. Home field may not prove to be of great advantage for St. Ouen.
For the first time in many years the Thonon Black Panthers will not be competing for the French title as they were eliminated from playoff contention early on, finishing with a disappointing 2-6 record.
The semifinals are scheduled for the weekend of June 11.