The logic is finally respected. The leader of the regular season, Castres, and his runner-up, Montpellier, will compete for the title of champion of France, Friday June 24, at the Stade de France. Nevertheless, those who will tell you that they had bet on such a poster before the start of the season, or even at the sight of the table of the final stages of Top 14, will be few in number and most likely in bad faith.
The predictions leaned more in favor of Stade Toulouse, champion 2021, and UBB, contenders that CO and MHR eliminated in the semi-finals. Because the reality on the ground is quite different and it is logically the two most fit teams that will oppose to win the Shield of Brennus. Experience of the final stages, insolent pragmatism, aggressive defense, franceinfo: sport presents the strengths of potential future champions.
The CO, that experienced old rogue
He may not seem like it, because despite his ability to play the leading roles year after year, followers are struck with a strange amnesia when it comes to the Olympic Castres. The presence of the CO in the final of Top 14 is not a surprise for those who have everything of an experienced old rogue.
If they do not always deploy a flamboyant game that we instinctively attribute to Stade Toulouse, which they beat on Friday (24-18), or to UBB – and again the arrival of the player duo Broncan-Darricarrère at the head of the team has changed the game this season –, the Tarnais demonstrate an undeniable ability to transcend themselves during the final stages. For ten years, the CO has participated in four championship finals (including that of 2022), only Toulon does better with five finals.
For its part, Montpellier, winner of the European Challenge 2021 and which finished in a disappointing 10th place last year, signs a surprise return to the fore. But does not have the Tarn experience. Never crowned in the Top 14, beaten in the final in 2011 and 2018, he will have there the third opportunity in his history to win the Brennus.
Montpellier, an intractable defense
Certainly, the UBB was no longer at the party for a few months, but we have rarely seen the men of Christophe Urios thwart at this point. Saturday evening, by winning (19-10), Montpellier reminded everyone that it has one of the best defenses in the championship. Aggressive in the rucks, applied in the clearings, the Héraultais gradually suffocate their opponents and deprive them of solutions. In the 66th, the UBB, in an interesting position after a well-negotiated touch at the entrance of the opposing 22 meters, jostled at each impact, fell back almost 20 meters before losing the ball.
“They must have watched our match last week. They prevented us from putting on this speed which made us dangerous.”Mahamadou Diaby, third line of the UBB
in the mixed zone after the semi-final between UBB and MHR
Above all, despite an obvious burst of energy, the Montpellier residents managed not to be penalized too much. The contribution of the former international referee, Alexandre Ruiz, who came to reinforce the staff in the summer to deepen the work around discipline and attitudes in contact, surely has something to do with it.
A common pragmatism
If there is one virtue that cannot be taken away from these two groups, it is their ability to score as soon as the opportunity arises. “We stuck to our plan, to occupy the field, to be strong defensively. As soon as the opportunity arose to score tries, we knew how to do it too and in matches like that, it’s very important. to score as soon as we have the chance”also underlined the back of the CO Julien Dumora after the victory against Toulouse.
These Castres, who enjoy games under tension, have won thanks to this lethal pragmatism two of the three finals to which they have reached over the past ten years. Argentine opener and scorer Benjamin Urdapilleta, named man of the match against Toulouse, had already been one of the great architects of the title in 2018. His performance will certainly be one of the keys to the final.
In this sector, Montpellier is no exception. At almost every incursion into the opposing 22 meters, at every opportunity, the MHR strives to leave with points. Against UBB, there was this first try by Vincent Rattez (6th), but also these two penalties passed by Georgian scrum-half Gela Aprasidze more than 50 meters away, which finished knocking out the Bordelo-Béglais.
On Friday, one of the two will inevitably have more success than the other, it remains to be seen whether it will be the experienced Castrese or the young first from Montpellier.