Stade crowned Top 14 champions

Date published: June 13 2015

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Four penalties from Morné Steyn proved enough for Stade Français to edge Clermont 12-6 to win the Top 14 Final.

Eight years after the teams met at the same stage, Stade again broke Clermont hearts in a tryless game where both teams struggled to find their best form.

Stade, on their return to the Top 14 play-offs after six years away, had already seen off Racing-Métro and Toulon, and had the better of the first half, taking advantage of Clermont's indiscipline to stretch into a 9-3 lead at the break.

The Parisian scrum had the upper hand, and while Stade never really threatened to score a try, their tactical game plan of playing the game in Clermont territory proved successful.

Les Jaunards were never really able to impose their game, the absences of Wesley Fofana and Noa Nakaitaci playing a part, and while they came closer to scoring a try, their indiscipline proved decisive, allowing Steyn to kick his side to victory.

Clermont started quickly and had the first chance of the game when Nick Abendanon cut through after some clever back play but as the ball came back to the left John Ulugia knocked on. That set up the first scrum, an area where Stade were dominant against both Racing and Toulon.

It was Clermont who got the nudge though, and earned a penalty, but Morgan Parra was surprisingly off-target with a simple shot at goal.

The game started at a frenetic pace, but it bubbled over after quarter of an hour when Julien Bardy was yellow-carded for going in without his arms on Waisea in a ruck. It was a contentious call, certainly a dangerous act but one that is ignored nine times out of ten. It sparked a fracas between both teams but in the end the only consequence was the sin-bin for Bardy and three points from Steyn.

The South African continued his perfect kicking record in the play-offs with a second penalty when Parra got trapped in a ruck and was penalised for slowing the ball.

Clermont could have cut the deficit when Thomas Domingo got over the ball well at a ruck, but again Parra was off-target, from 45 metres out this time.

It proved costly and Paul Jedrasiak was the next man penalised, collecting a knock-on in front and allowing Steyn to stretch the lead to 9-0 after 28 minutes.

Les Jaunards were struggling to get into the game, but they did have the best chance of a try shortly before the break when Aurélien Rougerie beat two men on the right but couldn't find Abendanon outside him with an overlap as the final cover tackle came in.

It was a warning for Stade though, and they were under pressure again when Clermont turned the ball over in their half and Fritz Lee got away. He found Jedrasiak on his shoulder and when he was brought down Jonathan Danty then dived on the ruck to slow the ball and was inevitably penalised. Camille Lopez, taking kicking duties from Parra, split the posts to make it 9-3 at the break.

Clermont showed their intentions again early in the second half, but a high tackle from Sébastien Vahaamahina gave Steyn the chance stretch the lead to two scores however this time he was off-target with his kick.

The Stade scrum was clearly in the ascendancy but after another powerful set-piece Steyn pulled his effort wide, before putting a kick out on the full.

While the South African fly-half was enduring a tough few minutes, Clermont struggled to make Stade pay, with Benjamin Kayser missing his lineout jumpers twice in a row, only for Laurent Sempéré to do the same for Stade.

Lopez had been replaced by Brock James at this point, and the Australian pulled his team back to within three points just after the hour after a good Clermont maul had forced Stade to come in from the side.

Stade seemed to be struggling physically, paying the price for their lack of depth as Clermont started to dominate possession and territory.

Abendanon had looked dangerous on the rare occasions he had the chance to run with the ball and it was his searing break that almost set up the first Clermont try, hauled down inside the 22 but when Clermont tried to go down the blindside Napolioni Nalaga was forced into touch by Julien Dupuy's desperate tackle.

Clermont were able to steal the resulting lineout though, and when Jono Ross slowed the ball, James had the chance to level the scores. However this time he pulled his effort just wide, and despite giving it their all in the final minutes, Steyn added a penalty with the final to condemn Clermont to defeat in a second major final this season, and an 11th French final in 12 attempts.

For Stade it marks a magnificent renaissance having been in the lower reaches of the Top 14 only a couple of seasons ago, getting reward for trusting their young homegrown players to turn things around as they claimed a first title since 2007.

The scorers:

For Clermont:
Pens:
Lopez, James
Yellow Card: Bardy

For Stade Français:
Pens:
Steyn 4

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Napolioni Nalaga, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Damien Chouly (c), 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Raphaël Chaume, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Alexandre Lapandry, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Brock James, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Clément Ric

Stade Français: 15 Djibril Camara, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempéré, 17 Zak Taulafo, 18 Pascal Papé, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Jérôme Fillol, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 23 Davit Kubriashvili

Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Referee: Pascal Gauzère
Assistant referees: Romain Poite, Salim Attalah

By Paul Eddison

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