Clermont Auvergne taste glory at last
May 29, 2010
Clermont's celebrate with the Bouclier de Brennus at the Stade de France
© Getty Images
Clermont Auvergne ended a 74-year wait for the French title with a 19-6 victory over Perpignan in their Top 14 Final showdown at the Stade de France in Paris.
A try from winger Napolioni Nalaga and an assured kicking display from scrum-half Morgan Parra and fly-half Brock James saw Les Jaunards end a run of ten successive final defeats dating back to 1936 including the last three battles for the Bouclier de Brennus. Two penalties from Jerome Porical were all Perpignan had to show for a lacklustre display with the defending champions left to rue a series of missed opportunities.
The Catalans began brightly and their physicality set the tone for what was a bruising encounter but they failed to find the finesse to compliment their aggression and Porical could not conjure the form that had helped to account for Heineken Cup champions Toulouse in the semi-final. Clermont weathered the early storm and grew in belief as Perpignan's challenge faltered with an outrageous drop goal from fullback Anthony Floch eventually putting the result beyond doubt and sealing a deserved victory.
Tempers threatened to boil over in a lively opening before the boot of James took the game deep inside the Perpignan 22. Clermont then stole the ball at the lineout and Parra and Nalaga probed the short side but were denied before tempers flared once again. The eventual penalty went Clermont's way but Parra could only push the kick wide of the posts.
Perpignan rallied well and their impressive physicality at the breakdown was rewarded with the next penalty but Porical was also off-target with his long-range effort with nerves apparently playing their part in proceedings. But Parra recovered his composure on ten minutes to give his side the lead after the Perpignan forwards' eagerness to claim a turnover on their own 22 got the better of them.
Rougerie and Floch then led a superb break after an excellent lineout move on halfway that had Perpignan scrambling. James added fresh impetus to the attack as the Perpignan defence worked desperately to snuff out the danger but the ball found Nalaga who showed great strength to force his way over for the score that was converted by Parra. Perpignan's dominance up front resulted in the next penalty midway through the half with Porical putting his side on the board with a superb kick from just inside the Clermont half. The sparks were soon flying again with referee Christophe Berdos called once again to act as peacemaker.
Rougerie was the next to be penalised for coming in from the side at a ruck and Porical wasted little time in slotting his second penalty and closing the deficit to four points. Clermont responded with a good spell of pressure and it was Perpignan who were next to feel the wrath of the referee's whistle for going off their feet and Parra punished them further.
A dazzling break from James then cut Perpignan wide open before Marius Joubert was hauled down and when the ball was recycled James was involved again, feeding Rougerie inside the 22, but some aggressive defence stripped the ball and cleared the danger. A huge hit from Henry Tuilagi then flattened Jamie Cudmore and the Perpignan No.8 was soon causing more damage with a strong run but some more committed defence, this time from Clermont winger Julien Malzieu, averted the danger.
Rougerie was the next to require treatment as the result of a unintentional knee to the back of his head in the latest bruising clash of the half and there was another soon after by Joubert on Perpignan hooker Guilhem Guirado with the Clermont centre guilty of not using his arms in the tackle. But Porical pulled the relatively straightforward kick wide of the posts in the last act of the half.
Perpignan winger Adrien Plante was the next to require treatment shortly after the re-start after being caught by a boot at the breakdown but his injury failed to halt his side's momentum that in turn forced the latest penalty from Clermont. But again Porical 's effort was wide of the mark with his patchy form with the boot becoming increasingly troubling.
Another mistake from Porical, this time under pressure in his own 22, gave Clermont a scrum in a great field position but some bone-crunching defence robbed Nalaga of the ball as he closed in on the line. Perpignan struggled to get the ball away with Gavin Hume charged down in his 22 but James was wide with his drop goal attempt. He was not deterred and lined up another from almost 60 metres moments later but failed to land his audacious effort.
Perpignan struggled to create any significant opportunities and what they could muster appeared a little desperate but their endeavour did bring Porical a chance to redeem himself just before the hour mark. It was however a similar story for the troubled fullback who pushed his latest attempt wide of the posts. Porical's shortcomings were magnified when Parra bisected the uprights soon after to give his side a ten point lead after Perpignan were penalised at the breakdown.
Parra looked to close the game out with his next effort a few minutes later after Perpignan's Marius Tincu was singled out for punishment but came up short. However, a superbly struck drop goal from Floch edged his side nearer a long-awaited title despite question marks about how Nalaga fielded the ball near the touchline in the build-up.
Bankrupt of ideas, a hopeful cross kick from Nicolas Laharrague failed to find Plante out wide in one of a precious few forays into their rivals' 22. The Catalans raised their game in the closing minutes but Clermont were not to be denied and happily ran the clock down with another wayward Parra penalty taking them nearer to a famous triumph that was confirmed by Berdos' final whistle.
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