the favorites and claws of our special correspondents

After the resounding victory of the MHR over the CO (29-10) in the final of the Top 14, find out what caught the attention of our special correspondents at the Stade de France.

In Saint Denis,

FAVORITES

Saint Andrew’s revenge

A return to the fore. Brilliantly. Philippe Saint-André led the MHR to the first French championship title in its history, largely dominating Castres on Friday evening at the Stade de France. A demonstration of strength and efficiency from the Héraultais, who showed ultra realism at the start of the match, leading 20-0 in less than a quarter of an hour. “PSA» thus won his first shield from Brennus, he who had already been crowned champion of England in 2006 with Sale. A unique double. A great revenge also for the former coach of the XV of France (2012-2015), who had gone through a dark period at the head of the Blues which chained disappointment after disappointment. With this title of champion of France, Saint-André struck a blow, he who had taken over a drifting team 18 months ago, which was struggling to maintain it. “We were cold, serene and ready to fight“recalled PSA, sure of his shot.

Great game at the Stade de France

Bad tongues predicted a dull final, without play or flights between two teams known for their restrictive game. Nothing happened, the public was able to attend a pleasant, spirited and spectacular finale. Largely thanks to Montpellier which, on its first three forays into the Castres 22 meters, scored three tries, two of which were concluded at a high level by Arthur Vincent and Anthony Bouthier. Opposite, the CO was sorely lacking in efficiency, being logically denied two attempts at the video. In any case, the 2022 final offered a spectacle and did not have the pensum feared by some. “We also know how to play rugby, we are not a team that only defends», reminded Philippe Saint-André.

Mercer in Majesty

Philippe Saint-André had a hollow nose when he brought Zach Mercer to Montpellier. Throughout the season, the English number 8, arriving from Bath, shone in the Top 14. Sharp runs, permanent support and incredible agility with the ball in hand. Friday night, he was again decisive in the success of his team. He delivered a full match, thanks to his incessant overflowing activity. “We have an incredible group, what is happening to us is fabulous. I didn’t expect all that when I came to France. To see the name of Montpellier written on the shield, it’s great. All this for my first season here“, he confided. Across the Channel, Mercer’s performance did not go unnoticed. Eddie Jones, the XV de la Rose coach, shunned him for a long time, which had precipitated his exile in France. Given the level of performance of the third row, England would be wrong to deprive themselves of such talent.

CLAW STRIKES

The endless protocol with President Macron

It is tradition. Before the final, the President of the Republic is introduced by the respective presidents of the two teams, the 36 players in the match (plus the referees by the President of the French Rugby Federation, Bernard Laporte). Emmanuel Macron’s advisers had briefed him well. A little word for each player and, sometimes, a slightly longer speech. Thus with Guilhem Guirado who said to himself, after the match, “ deeply touched » with the words « sincere ” Of the president : “ they hit the nail on the head “… For, in the end, a protocol that lasted almost 15 minutes. Long, very long. For the supporters, who could no longer wait for the outbreak of hostilities. For the players, even more in a hurry to fight it out and in the process of cooling down, losing all the benefit of the warm-up. The Castrais thus ended up making a few sprints and tackles while Emmanuel Macron finished with the Montpellier team.

Happy but embittered Montpellier residents

Victory gives all rights. Including that of exaggerating. In the bowels of the Stade de France, the Montpellier residents played the outraged card. Supposedly the media would have all said in chorus that they had no chance against Castres in the final…”In all the predictions, we were truffles. In the end, we managed to do something not too bad. For truffles, we didn’t do badly“, quipped the center of the MHR, Geoffrey Doumayrou. Same story, at the microphone of Canal +, on the side of Benoît Paillauge, the scrum half who played his last match under the colors of the Hérault club. “We deserve so much… We got spat on, we said so many things about us, rightly or wrongly perhaps. One thing is certain Montpellier will be more respected from now on.“ Guilhem Guirado could not help himself, either, to slip a small spade. “Even if certain specialists claimed that we did not know how to play rugby, I think that we played rather well, in particular with ten minutes of fire (3 trials registered in this period of time, Editor’s note). The voice of wisdom was eventually embodied by three-quarter coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who urged not to “not hold a grudge». «17 months ago, we were 13e. Today we have two titles (with the Challenge Cup 2021, Editor’s note).

Kockott and Ouedraogo would have deserved another outing

Two emblematic players of their respective clubs who hang up their crampons. For two farewells in the form of punishment, in the stands of the Stade de France. A bitterness mitigated by the first crowning of the MHR for Fulgence Oueadrago, player of only one club (18 seasons!)It’s the best of endings. It was twice that we had lost in the final, that we had missed the mark. This time we are there. Of course, I would have liked to be on the pitch with my teammates. But it’s sport, it’s sometimes cruel and difficult, but the team above all.“Rory Kockott, 11 seasons and 240 matches on his Castres counter, did not have this satisfaction to mitigate his sourness. “This is not how I wanted to end my career. But I loved French culture, I enjoyed life here. And the title of 2013 is a memory that no one will take away from me…“, declared the scrum-half of South African origin (but international 11 times with the XV of France), at the microphone of Canal +.

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