Castres down Toulon to win Top 14 Rugby title

A first half try by South African Rory Kockott helped Castres beat Heineken Cup Champions Toulon 14-19 and win the Top 14 Rugby final.

The title is Castres first French Top14 title since 1993 and their victory means that only Toulouse have completed the Heineken Cup/Top 14 double.

Castres captain Remi Tales emulated opposite number Jonny Wilkinson by knocking
over two late drop goals in the match which stopped a Toulon fightback in its

Toulon were plagued by uncharacteristic handling errors as they failed to complete
a European and domestic double, two weeks after upsetting Clermont in the European
Cup final in Dublin.

For Castres it was a fourth French title and first since 1993, the perfect
send-off for Racing Metro-bound coaching pair Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers.

“We’re very happy tonight and it is something that will be engraved on
our memories forever,” said Travers.

“We have good players at Castres and it’s a great victory.”

Toulon scrum-half Frederic Michalak added: “We had a chance at the double
but it came down to small details.

“We tried to play our game and keep it open but they made it difficult.

“We gave away the try and couldn’t get back into the game. We won one
final and have lost another.”

A year ago against Toulouse in the final, Toulon were involved in a turgid
slugfest without any tries. This looked to be even more of a bruising dogfight
until a moment of genius from Toulouse-bound Kockott on the stroke of half-time.

With fly-half Tales in the hole getting ready for a drop goal attempt that
would have sent the underdogs into the dressing-rooms in front, the South African
showed a slight of hand that a magician would have been proud of.

He dummied the pass back to his number 10, diverting the attention of Toulon’s
chargers, before darting through a gaping hole, with Frederic Michalak totally
flummoxed, to dot down under the posts.

Kockott’s own conversion took the score out to 10-3 at the break with Toulon
manager Bernard Laporte, who was already halfway down the tunnel, looking on

Before that inspirational score, which came after the half-time buzzer, it
had been a midfield stalemate.

Wilkinson had hit the post with the first penalty attempt of the night before
being given a second opportunity straight in front of the woodwork moments later.

Seremaia Bai almost got Castres going with a weaving break but the underdogs
spilled the ball in the corner five yards out.

Yet the European champions committed suicide as Matt Giteau spilled the ball
almost on his line and from the resulting scrum, Toulon were penalised and Kockott
levelled the scores on 14 minutes.

Castres were pinged for not rolling away but Wilkinson missed for the second
time in three attempts when his penalty from halfway dropped just under bar.

Toulon must have had some hairdryer treatment from Laporte because they were
a different animal after the break.

Bastareaud charged to within inches of the line before Castres were penalised
and Wilkinson knocked over his second penalty.

The game had really opened up as Ibrahim Diarra wasted an overlap 10 yards
out by trying to go it alone. Castres were subsequently awarded a penalty but
Kockott hit the upright.

Toulon almost caved in again, trying to run the ball out from behind their
line and after Chris Masoe dropped it, replacement scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde
saved the day by getting his hands under the ball to prevent Tales from touching

Wilkinson missed his third kick of the night when hitting the post from halfway
but he then slotted over a penalty from the 10-yard line as Toulon closed to
within a point at 10-9 with 13 minutes left.


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