Clermont beat Perpignan and take Top 14 title

Clermont struck it lucky at the 11th time of asking by recording a 19-6 victory over Perpignan to claim the French Top 14 title for the first time at the Stade de France on Saturday.


The club from central France were finally able to shake off their perennial “chokers” tag after three straight final losses, which included a 22-13 loss to Perpignan in last year’s showdown.


“A good night! The players deserve that,” beamed Clermont’s Kiwi coach Vern Cotter.


In a tight game in front of a capacity crowd, Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga scored the sole try of the game for Clermont, with France scrum-half Morgan Parra notching up a conversion and three penalties. Anthony Floch also scored a drop-goal.


Perpignan were undone by a rock-steady Clermont defence and an off-day for full-back Jerome Porical, the usually metronomical kicker who was only successful with two of his six pots at goal.


Clermont took the lead in the 11th minute with a Parra penalty, the scrum-half having taken over from Australian half-back partner Brock James in the latter part of the season.


And then came the defining moment, when Nalaga was on hand to take a sweet Parra flip pass to crash through three defenders to touch down for a try Parra also converted.


Perpignan, who finished top of the French league after the regulation season and beat newly crowned European champions – and 17-time French champions – Toulouse 21-13 in their semi-final, managed to pressure the Clermont scrum into popping and Porical hit his side’s opening penalty in the 21st minute.


The full-back, recently called up to France’s summer touring party to South Africa and Argentina, nailed his second five minutes later when Clermont captain Aurelien Rougerie — in his fifth final — drifted off-side at a ruck.


Parra, one of France’s key men in the Six Nations Grand Slam, struck straight back as the Catalan club infringed from the ensuing kick-off to leave the scores 13-6 at half-time.


The second period was a closely-fought affair with Clermont’s defence holding firm in the face of wave after wave of Perpignan attack.


The only scores of the half came from a fourth Parra penalty and a 69th minute drop-goal from full-back Floch which sealed a deserved victory for a side that has played superb rugby all season under the guidance of Cotter.

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