Clermont loses first home game in four years
After 77 wins on the trot in all competitions at its home ground of Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont lost on the weekend to Castres 22-16 in the qualifying final of the Top 14 competition.
Clermont was third on the ladder in the regular season and had to beat sixth-placed Castres for the right to play second-placed Montpellier in the semi-final next week.
It is extraordinary for home teams in France to lose such games but there was a portent in the other qualifier the day before when fifth-placed Racing Metro beat fourth-placed Toulouse away.
Clermont hadn’t being playing that well recently. They had been thrashed 46-6 by Saracens in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup two weeks before at Twickenham and had played some listless rugby throughout the season.
Clermont dominant here but Castres finish on top
Castres were the surprise champions of the Top 14 last year but didn’t look like it sometimes in a 2013/14 season which had so many unexpected events.
But they looked like winners in the game that mattered. Led by a couple of their exciting players, fullback Brice Dulin and scrumhalf Rory Kockott, they held their own against the home team and gradually took command. The game-breaker came when rising star, inside centre Rémi Lamerat, scored after 62 minutes.
Castres was comfortably ahead 22-9 when 8. Damien Chouly scored under the posts for Clermont to get to 16-22, but they had only two minutes left to score another seven points to win.
This time there were no more rabbits to pull out of the hat and Clermont lost after an unbeaten run of 77 home games.
Watch out for Castres’ players 15. Brice Dulin and 12. Rémi Lamerat when France is in Australia next month. They can play.