Photo: Eoin Mundow/
Stade Toulousain 15 (3)
Montpellier 10 (7)
Stade de France, Paris
left it late, not taking the lead until the 71st minute, but
French giants Stade Toulousain eventually claimed their 18th
national crown after downing brave Montpellier 15-10 in
Paris on Saturday night.
long Fabien Galthié's Mediterranean underdogs appeared set
to cause one of the biggest rugby upsets in recent French
history, but 21-year-old Nicolas Bézy proved Toulouse's
match-winner just in the nick of time as he calmly slotted
two late penalties to secure the Bouclier de Brennus.
Bézy's late intervention it appeared that starting fly-half
David Skrela would mark his last match in Toulouse colours
by frittering away his team's victory chances by missing
with his five of his eight penalty attempts. But Skrela was
eventually replaced by Bézy and the talented youngster
showed nerves of steel as he landed the knockout blows that
Toulouse's overall dominance had deserved.
titles were won on heart alone then Montpellier - only
formed in 1986 - may have been celebrating their inaugural
French championship, but sport rarely deals with fairytale
romance. Their defence was superb all night, led
bombastically by their brave heart captain Fulgence
Ouedraogo, who was playing despite a broken hand. They
shackled the much-vaunted Toulouse back-line and showed a
pickpocket's opportunism when Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa
raced in for the game's first and only try just before the
half hour mark.
former Ulster player chipped over countryman Rupeni
Caucaunibuca and then zoomed past Cédric Heymans to touch
down under the posts for Argentine Martin Bustos Moyano to
convert and leave the blue and white masses celebrating a
who had a night to forget on his farewell appearance for
Toulouse, did at least get Guy Noves' side on the board with
a penalty before the break, but the 1/5 favourites made too
many mistakes - both out of foot and hand - as the prospects
of a huge upset began to formulate.
Montpellier and France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc edged his
team further ahead with a neatly taken drop-goal soon after
the resumption, and then it was all hands on deck as the
underdogs attempted to defend their lead.
continuing profligacy offered Montpellier further hope, but
the Clermont-bound fly-half did at least land two more
penalties as he narrowed the gap to just one point before
departing in the 67th minute.
left the stage clear for Bézy, and the precocious youngster
duly stepped up to the plate with successful kicks in the
71st and 75th minutes, the latter while Montpellier were
down to 14 men following the sin-binning of Benoit
It was a
cruelly late execution for Montpellier and their fans, but
head coach Galthié later on spoke of this being the
beginning rather than the end of the story. The former
French international has surpassed all expectations by
leading his team to this year's final, and he has done it
primarily with a young side trying to play attacking rugby.
can go on from here and build on this experience - they will
make their Heineken Cup debut next season - then Montpellier
could yet emerge as a true force in French rugby. Toulouse
head coach Guy Noves was fulsome in his praise of the
vanquished after a gripping final, but few neutrals would
deny that the south-west giants eventually deserved their
18th French title.
not have been achieved as they would have wished, but finals
are for winning - by whatever means. This latest silverware
will help dissipate the loss of their Heineken Cup crown,
and as a full-stop to a tremendous season it was thoroughly
deserved. Toulouse have been top of the pile since ascending
the Top 14 summit in October, and this result was ample
reward for a consistency that remains the envy of clubs
throughout France and beyond.
will be back again next year for another tilt at European
glory as they seek to add to their record four titles, this
time bolstered by the newly acquired playing skills of Luke
McAlister, Luke Burgess and Lionel Beauxis. Frédéric
Michalak may have departed, but the big red and black
machine rumbles on.