Top 14: History repeats itself as Clermont edge out Toulon

By Paul Eddison

clermont top 14 final

There will be a certain sense of déjà-vu in Paris in a fortnight’s time as Perpignan and Clermont contest a repeat of last year’s Top 14 final.

Reigning champions Perpignan will be looking for a second straight title, whilst Clermont will be desperate for a first win at the eleventh attempt.

The first semi final in Montpellier saw Perpignan edge past Toulouse 21-13 thanks to some impressive kicking from full back Jérôme Porical.

The Catalans came into the game on the back of three weeks rest, whilst Toulouse had played a European Cup semi final against Leinster, and a Top 14 playoff game against Castres.

Even though it was Toulouse who got off to the better start, after a devastating counter attack sending rookie scrum half Nicolas Bézy under the posts the tiredness soon became apparent.

A completely dominant Perpignan pack provided Porical with three kicks at goal in the first half, but Toulouse were able to score two penalties of their own to lead 13-9 at the interval.

The second half was a tense affair, but despite the introduction of several replacements for Toulouse, Perpignan’s dominance up front ended up being reflected on the scoreboard. Porical kicked two huge penalties from inside his own half, and the Catalan defence stifled the Toulouse backs as they eventually ran out comfortable winners.

On Saturday Toulon fell just short in controversial circumstances against Clermont in Saint-Étienne, going down 35-29 after extra time.

Philippe Saint-André’s team were unhappy at referee Jérôme Garcès’ decision not to refer Davit Zirakashvili’s try to the television match official, and replays showed that he appeared to lose control of the ball in the process of scoring.

Clermont had the better of the first half and put their opponents under a lot of pressure for little reward. Toulon, on the other hand, were the epitomy of pragmatism as they took a 9-6 first half lead despite not getting near to the Clermont try line.

In the second half Clermont managed to take a stranglehold on the game with Morgan Parra kicking them into the lead before Zirakashvili’s controversial score put them ten points clear with as many minutes remaining.

However, Toulon were able to turn things around with a try from Sonny Bill Williams and then a late penalty from Jonny Wilkinson. At 22-22 after eighty minutes, the momentum seemed to be with Toulon, but their opponents were able to step up a gear and take a decisive thirteen point lead thanks to a mammoth Brock James drop goal and then a kick and chase from Julien Malzieu.

Toulon came back into it with a Fabien Cibray try, and had another chance to score at the death, but in the end they could not quite do enough to deny Clermont a fourth straight final.

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