Toulouse win Top 14 Rugby title

Toulouse beat Clermont 26-20 in the final of the French rugby championship at the Stade de France here on Saturday to make up for their European Cup final defeat and condemn their opponents to nine final losses.

Clermont, who finished the regular season five points ahead of Toulouse and a massive 16 ahead of third-placed Stade Francais, could not impose that authority in the playoffs and have still never won the French title.

Toulouse meanwhile claimed their 17th domestic trophy to make up for their 16-13 defeat to Ireland’s Munster in last month’s European Cup final in Cardiff.

Toulouse co-coach Yannick Bru said afterwards: “We did not want to be the “Poulidor” of rugby in 2008. The squad deserved to be champions this year quite frankly following the efforts they have made and the injuries they have endured.

“In this post-World Cup season, problems had been predicted but, at the end of this marathon season, the players deserved this reward. To win a final as a player is a more selfish happiness but to win it as a coach is a different type of pleasure. I was really delighted to see the players so happy.”

It was a match between two clubs which were far and away the best in the country this season, both adept at physically demanding yet spectacular play.

Toulouse got the first try through hooker William Servat in the 18th minute, converted by Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (pictured), to pull them ahead after Brock James’s penalty had given Clermont an early lead.

However Clermont captain Aurelien Rougerie put them ahead again with a touchdown, converted by James, though a penalty from Toulouse flyhalf Elissalde meant the teams went in level at 10-10 at the break.

At that point it was hard to separate the sides in a bruising, combative contest but the second half was basically all one way as Toulouse put on the pressure.

An Elissalde penalty five minutes after the break and then a Medard try, following a move spanning fully 80 metres, plus penalties from Maleli Kunavore and Valentin Courrent put Toulouse 26-10 ahead with just over 10 minutes to go.

Davit Zirakashvili managed to score a try in the closing stages, converted by James, but Toulouse never looked like losing grip of the match in the final moments.

The clubs have already met three times before in the final — in 1994, 1999 and 2001 — and in this fourth meeting Toulouse kept up their unblemished record over Clermont. It was also Toulouse’s first title for seven years.

Sapa-AFP –

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