mercredi 2 juin 2010
CLERMONT FERRAND RUGBYTOWN OF THE WORLD
Early in the morning my great pleasure is reading of the New York Times n°1 in New York and i enjoy to see a big comment published: May 30, 2010
At Long Last, Clermont Wins the Championship
By HUW RICHARDS
CloseLinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink After 74 years and 11 finals, a quest with no parallel in top-class sports reached its conclusion as Clermont Auvergne at last won the French national rugby union championship, beating the reigning champion, Perpignan, by a score of 19-6 at the Stade de France.
Other clubs, notably baseball’s Chicago Cubs, have had a longer wait in years. Not one, though, has been tantalized by the proximity of success as much as Clermont, whose 10 defeats in finals included each of the last three seasons.
The mood among Clermont’s players, coaches and massed yellow-clad fans on a wet Saturday night in Paris mixed ecstasy with disbelief as its captain, Aurélien Rougerie, lifted the Bouclier de Brennus, the symbol of supremacy in French club rugby.
Coach Vern Cotter, usually gruffly undemonstrative even by New Zealand standards, was in unashamed tears. He said, “It is a great feeling, the culmination of four years of work and of everybody’s dreams.”
The Australian outside-half Brock James, a veteran of the three previous defeats, said, “I don’t know if there are words for this.”
Considered in isolation, the victory was clear-cut. Clermont was clearly the better team. Perpignan dominated in the scrums, but nowhere else. It never seemed like it would score a try. The coach of Perpignan, Jacques Brunel, conceded that “nothing worked.”
“We were never in a position to worry Clermont,” he said. “We made too many errors. The better team won, and deserved to.”
But to win, Clermont had to beat not only Perpignan, but its own suffocating weight of bad memories and the accompanying fear that the reward for yet another nine-month, 28-match marathon would be another gut-wrenching disappointment.
Even Clermont’s early try — the only time either side crossed the line — was potentially an ill omen. It was scored by the Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga, a reminder that he had also scored early last year, before Perpignan hit back to win, 22-13.
That hint of déjà vu became acute when the Perpignan fullback Jérôme Porical, recently called up to the French national squad, kicked two penalty goals before half an hour had been played.
Nobody did more to swing the 2009 match than Porical, who landed all five of his kicks at goal.
This time, though, he was wide with a simple shot just before halftime, when Clermont led, 13-6, and he went on to miss two more penalties he would normally land early in the second half.
Any doubts that this was, at long last, Clermont’s day, ended with a few minutes left. The referee, Christophe Berdos, failed to spot Nalaga stumbling into touch while catching a Perpignan clearance kick. Nalaga passed to full-back Anthony Floch, who blasted over a drop goal from nearly 50 meters, or 165 feet.
If a sense of triumph was particularly strong for veterans of past defeat like Rougerie, playing his fifth final, much was owed to a man unmarked by those losses. Scrum-half Morgan Parra moved from Bourgoin last summer. At the age of 21, Parra has greatness before him for both club and country. His astute tactical kicking kept Clermont going forward and Perpignan off balance, while in contrast to Porical he landed his goals, three penalties and a conversion, nervelessly.
While Perpignan was losing its title, there were still two triumphs for reigning champions on a day that, unprecedentedly, had four major rugby finals worldwide.
Northern Transvaal’s Blue Bulls won the Super 14 championship — contested by regional franchises from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia — for the third time in four seasons. Outside-half Morne Steyn scored 20 points as the Bulls won the all-South African clash with Western Province Stormers, 25-17, in Soweto, leading all the way in spite of being outscored by two tries to one.
Leicester, by contrast, had to come from behind three times to claim its third Guinness English Premiership title in four years — extending its record to nine in all — at Twickenham. Center Dan Hipkiss’s try with four minutes left spelled the end for the spirited challenge of Saracens, first-time finalists.
Yet the performance of the day could arguably be claimed by Ospreys, the Welsh franchise based in Swansea, in scoring two tries to none to win the first Magner’s Celtic League final by beating the Irish province Leinster, 17-12. Clermont, the Bulls and Leicester won on neutral ground. The Ospreys had to go to Leinster’s ground in Dublin to clinch the title of the best team in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, previously decided on the basis of regular-season standings.
Next up for Clermont, Leicester and Ospreys will be the draw on June 8 for the pool stage of the 2010-11 Heineken European Cup, rugby’s equivalent of soccer’s Champions League. Each cherishes serious ambitions to add European honors to domestic ones, and all will hope for an easier draw than last season — when they were matched together in a single four-team pool.