After three consecutive losses, Castres found form at the weekend to secure a convincing bonus-point win against Northampton Saints.
Following three away games, described by coach Cristophe Urios as ‘a terrible chain of events’, Castres put on an impressive show at their home ground of Pierre-Antoine. From a technical perspective, Castres’ performance was extremely impressive (read more on this from our resident analyst). But since beating Saints and moving up to second place in Pool 4, the Castrais have only spoken of one thing: the bonds between players.
Ahead of the Saints game, Urios expressed the need for his players to recognise that the team is ‘sacred’. He spoke highly of the quality and spirit of his players. The team’s recent losses, he put down to ‘costly errors’ and ‘a lack of accuracy at key moments’. But against Saints he knew they had to erase past mistakes and move on. According to Urios, this could only be achieved as a team.
Captain Alex Tulou also spoke of the sanctity of the team but in a rather more unique manner. He compared his side to ‘a punch’. “A punch is stronger than a slap, because a punch is held together tight.” According to the number eight, it is Castres’ togetherness that has made them stronger.
After recruiting 13 new players at the start of the season, it was bound to take a while for Castres to become a cohesive side. One of these many new recruits is Argentinean international Horacio Agulla, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday and described the win against Saints as ‘a beautiful birthday present’.
In fact, Castres’ loss to Leinster on 15th October was a Champions Cup debut for many of the players. But Tulou commented that the strength displayed by the team against Northampton on Saturday comes from the amount of time they have been able to spend together recently.
The unity of the side was evident at moments of brilliance like David Smith and Alexandre Bias’ beautifully worked try. Man of the match Smith displayed his ability to time an offload perfectly. The pairing confounded the Saints defence and Bias eased over the try-line. Without a doubt, tries like this one come a lot easier to clubs that focus on the team rather than the individual.
When asked how it feels to take to the field as captain, Tulou said it ‘pushes you to be even better’. This was evident on Saturday as the Samoan delivered one of the best performances of the day, showing his impressive pace as he made four clean breaks.
Tulou represents an excellent example for his teammates to follow, just as the Castres team are an excellent example for rugby fans. They have shown that rugby is not just a matter of skills and stats. Rugby teams are greater than the sum of their parts.
To win games, every player in the squad must be individually talented but they must also work with their teammates towards a common goal. That is what Castres did so brilliantly on Saturday and it is what fans hope they will continue to do when they host Bordeaux-Bègles on Sunday.
by Becky Grey