Following the unfortunate knee injury to Argentine international flyhalf Juan Martín Hernández last Saturday, which has ended his season for Paris club Racing Metro and placed serious doubt over his participation at Rugby World Cup 2011, it is appropriate to look back at El Mago in one of the biggest games of his career - the 2007 Top 14 Final. Hernández put in an outstanding performance and was subsequently given plenty of praise from the press. During commentary for the first match of Rugby World Cup 2007 former All Black Simon Manix said that Hernández almost won the Top 14 Final by himself. His comment was no exageration as Hernández ran the game well with a great attacking performance from flyhalf.
Stade Français came from behind to win the match 23-18 after being behind 12-0 and it was Hernández´ second half display that turned the match. He kicked 5 goals from 5 attempts to notch up 13 secondhalf points but more importanly he was in the right place at the right time to do his magic. In the 51st minute, Hernández revieved the ball near hus own 10 metre line he then chipped over the defence and retrieved his own kick before offloading to a teammate in the tackle. This play put Paris well inside the Clermont 22 and resulted in a penalty goal. In the 61st minute Hernández combined well with wing Christophe Dominici to set the French winger on a 40 metre run before slotting his third penalty. Stade Français found themselves 18-16 behind in the 84th minute and following a break from wing Julien Arias Hernández vame close to scoring a try as he was tackled one metre short. Four phases latter Hernández threw a long cut-out-pass, skipping four players, to former Australian international Radiki Samo who scored in the corner in the 78th minute and with Hernández slotting the goal Clermont were all but burried. The match is a great reminder of the talent that is Juan Martín Hernández.
Hernández was joined by his close friend and former Argentina captain - the legendary Agustín Pichot who also put in a top performance in organizing the forwards and he scored a great individual try in addition to captaining Stade Français. Pichot was the first, and to this date the only ever foreigner to lead a Top 14 side to the championship. Argentina born Italian backrower, Sergio Parisse came off the bench in the secondhalf and both Paris props were also from Argentina in the form of Rodrigo Roncero and Pedro Ledesma. Pedro´s brother, Mario Ledesma played hooker for Clermont and Pumas tighthead prop Martín Scelzo joined him in the frontrow, meaning five of the six frontrowers who started the match were from Argentina. Clermont also had an Argentina player in the backline with Italian international Gonzalo Canale playing centre.
In addition, two Canadian internationals featured in the final - both in the starting lineup. The now retired Canadian secondrower legend, Mike James played number 5 for Stade Français and Jamie Cudmore played number 4 for Clermont. Cudmore had a fine match which included stealing two lineout throws. He still plays for Clermont and has since gone to to be a French champion having been in the title winning 2010 team. Mike James´ win in 2007 enabled him to return to Canada as a champion. Both featured for Canada at that years Rugby World Cup. Cudmore is certain to play for Canada latter this year in Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand.