Monday, June 6, 2011

Toulouse vs Montpellier - Top 14 Final


The Top 14 Final was played on Saturday evening at France´s iconic and largest venue, Le Stade de France. It was a showcase of the future of the sport of rugby with players on show from not only France but also a number of other countries that will feature at Rugby World Cup 2011, such as Argentina, Fiji and Georgia. It was David vs Goliath as the 17 time winner, Toulouse took on Montpellier who were appearing in the final for the first time ever. Toulouse was packed with stars, as usual with big name French players like Yannick Jauzion, Maxime Medard, Clement Poitrenaud, William Servat and Thierry Dusautoir as well as some global stars from abroad including Pumas secondrower Patricio Albacete and Fiji´s world famous winger, Rupeni Caucau. Toulouse thus, on paper, entered as heavy favorites but this was taking a lot away from Montpellier´s abilities as well as over rating the abilities of Toulouse, a team fielding a number of washed up players who are no longer wanted by French selectors.

In a highly emotional match, Montpellier started the better side and looked strong with a number of lesser known players putting in impressive performances. Both teams were using the width of the field but it took well over twenty minutes for the first points to be posted on the scoreboard. Fijian winger, Timoci Nagusa scored the games first and only try in the 26th minute to huge applause from  the thousands of fans waving blue banners and flags at the Stade de France. Argentine winger, Martín Bustos Moyano made it 7-0 with a simple conversion and Montpellier looked well and truely to be on top. French international flyhalf, David Skrela hit back before the interval with a late penalty to make the scores 7-3 at the interval.

After the break, Montpellier again were the side having the better of play and Skrela´s opposite number, François Trinh-Duc showed just why he is France´s first choice flyhalf with a well judged dropgoal in the first minute of play after the restart. This gave Montpellier a 10-3 lead as the men in blue looked, indeed to be on target for a history making Top 14 Championship. It was to be denied, however, as Toulouse were able to fight back but not in the most conventional ways. Skrela underlined why he is not the most popular flyhalf on earth with a poor kicking display including missing two kickes from in front of the posts to let Montpellier off the hook. He had struck a 47th minute penalty to make it 10-6 to Montpellier and when he finally struck another successful penalty in the 66th minute from close range, Toulouse went to within one point of Montpellier. Skrela was soon thereafter taken off to be replaced by Nicholas Bezy who slotted penalties in the 70th and 75th minutes which proved sufficient to catch the lead and go on to win the match 15-10. Despite losing, Montpellier scored the game only try and were the more attacking side. Moreover, two Montpellier players were yellow carded compared to none from Toulouse. The horror show from Skrela featured a total of 8 shots at goal for 5 misses and 3 goals. Clearly, not up to the standards of a professional, let alone a player listed to play for France at New Zealand 2011.

The continued contribution of Argentina to global rugby was on show with Albacete and Bustos Moyano being joined by two other Pumas, both for Montpellier. Santiago Fernández played the entire match at inside centre and recieved praise from the French press for his performance. Also playing for Montpellier was Pumas third choice loosehead prop, Juan Figallo who put in a great performance in the scrums and around the park. Figallo was everpresent in play, looking like a future star and even has the credentials to be the best prop in France in a season or two. Albacete was arguably the best Toulouse forward and completed another season as the best secondrower in the Top 14. Toulouse´s championship win makes it 18 titles, far more than anybody else. Despite goping down, Montpellier underlined themselves as a team for the future as the squad is the youngest in the Top 14 and next season will maek the teams first ever appearance in the Heineken Cup.

Toulouse

15 Heymans
14 Médard
13 Jauzion
12 Poitrenaud
11 Caucaunibuca (Fiji)
10 Skrela
9 Doussain
8 Picamoles
7 Dusautoir (captain)
6 Bouilhou
5 Albacete (France)
4 Millo-Chluski
3 Johnston (Samoa)
2 Servat
1 Human (South Africa)

Montpellier

15 Thiery
14 Nagusa (Fiji)
13 Mirande
12 Fernández (Argentina)
11 Bustos Moyano (Argentina)
10 Trinh-Duc
9 Tomas
8 Matadigo (Fiji)
7 Gorgodze (Georgia)
6 Ouedraogo
5 Fakate
4 Hancke
3 Jgenti (Georgia)
2 Rofes
1 Figallo (Argentina)

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