Castres claimed a 29-13 victory over Montpellier in the Top 14 final at the Stade de France in Paris to become champions of France on Saturday.
Julien Dumora and Steve Mafi scored tries while Castres fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta maintained a 100 percent goal-kicking record throughout. Ruan Pienaar was guilty of uncharacteristically missing two easy penalties for Montpol.
Having finished sixth in the regular-season standings, Castres have had to do it the hard way, notching up successive wins over Toulouse, Racing 92 and now Montpellier on their way to their third crown.
Montpellier, who finished top of the table, have been denied a first ever title, having last and only appeared in a final in 2011. Having comfortably been the best team throughout the regular-season, they came unstuck when it mattered most which will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of them, their supporters and indeed Mohed Altrad, who has seen his millions come to nought thus far.
Castres scrapped for everything and although it wasn’t pretty, it was effective as they successfully managed to force the big names of Montpellier in to uncharacteristic mistakes from which they were duly punished.
Urdapilleta and Frans Steyn exchanged penalties in the opening 10 minutes as the sides felt each other out in a cagey start to the match typical of a Top 14 final with so much at stake.
However, Castres pulled away in the next 10 minutes, capitalising on their territorial advantage with two further Urdapilleta penalties, which took the two-times champions out to a 9-3 lead.
Indiscipline was proving to be Montpol’s downfall as Urdapilleta slotted his fourth penalty from four attempts after Benjamin Fall was penalised for playing the ball on the ground.
Having missed his first penalty badly, Pienaar made no mistake with his second after Castres were caught offside to cut the deficit to six points with five minutes to go before half-time.
Montpellier though continued to make rudimentary errors; this time Nico Janse van Rensburg managing to send the ball over his own dead-ball line when he tapped back a line-out too vigorously. Castres punished them from a five-metre attacking scrum as Dumora got on the outside of Fulgence Ouedraogo to dive over. Urdapilleta converted for a 13-point lead as the sides headed into the interval.
Montpellier dominated the beginning of the second-half with the pressure telling when Castres lock Loic Jacquet was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul. From the resulting penalty, Montpol were awarded the penalty try when their scrum dismantled the Castres front-row.
However, Castres did well to eat up time by holding on to the ball despite having a man less and even restored their nine-point buffer when Urdapilleta kicked another three-pointer.
Pienaar had an easy opportunity to cut the deficit to six points once again in the 65th minute after Castres were penalised for holding on, meaning all Montpellier would need is a converted try, but the South African badly shanked his second routine penalty of a forgettable night.
Having been on the backfoot for most of the second-half, Castres soaked up the pressure and went up the other end to score through Mafi which would prove to be the killer blow for a dejected Montpellier side.
Try: Penalty Try
Pens: Steyn, Pienaar
Tries: Dumora, Mafi
Cons: Urdapilleta 2
Pens: Urdapilleta 5
Yellow Card: Jacquet
Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Louis Picamoles (c), 7 Kelian Galletier, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Gregory Fichten, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Julien Bardy, 20 Enzo Sanga, 21 Henry Immelman, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Davit Kubriashvili
Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Armand Batlle, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega (c), 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Tudor Stroe, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Maama Vaipulu, 20 Steve Mafi, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Paea Fa’anunu
Referee: Jerome Garces
Assistant referees: Romain Poite, Laurent Cardona
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin