Montpellier outclasses Castres in the final and wins its first French championship title

An insolent pragmatism to embroider with gold thread the strongest moment in the history of the club. Montpellier was crowned champion of France for the first time in its history by dominating Castres (29-10), Friday June 24, at the Stade de France. Guilhem Guirado’s teammates knocked out their Tarn opponents from the start to race in the lead in a Top 14 final which they led with a masterful hand. In twenty short minutes, four incursions, three tries, a penalty and the Héraultais had already taken off (20-0). They were then able to resist attempts to return from Castres to afford the right to raise the shield of Brennus.

The third final is therefore the right one for the MHR, which lost at the same stage of the competition in 2011 and 2018. They also took their revenge on the Castres who had blocked their way four years ago (defeat 29- 13). Philippe Saint-André’s players especially offer the perfect outing to the former captain of the XV of France, Guilhem Guirado, who chose to hang up his crampons at the end of the season.

Montpellier player Anthony Bouthier scored a try in the Top 14 final against Castres, June 24, 2022, at the Stade de France (Seine-Saint-Denis).  (ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP)

“The final will be played on the mental, the physical and the precision that we will put tomorrow in our strategywarned the Montpellier coach the day before the match. We have to be cold, determined, because it’s going to be a huge fight, precise and disciplined.” Admittedly, the Montpellier residents could not escape a yellow card (63rd, Van Rensburg), but apart from this slight misstep, the plan was applied to the letter.

Led by a dominating Zach Mercer in the tackle and inspired with the ball in hand, the Montpellier residents capitalized on the sector that has been their strength this season: defense. So ask the Bordelo-Béglais, extinguished in the semi-finals, what they think. In the rucks, in melee, as in touch, the Héraultais pushed the Castres to the fault. The three tries planted from the start, by the ghost Arthur Vincent (6th), by Florian Verhaeghe (10th) in force, then by Anthony Bouthier thanks to a formidable cross initiated by Vincent (12th), came from as many balls counterattacks caused by Montpellier’s defensive pressure.

Castres player Julien Dumora is tackled during the Top 14 final between his team and Montpellier, June 24, 2022 at the Stade de France (Seine-Saint-Denis).  (MATTHEW MIRVILLE / AFP)

If the Olympic Castres, five-time champion of France and used to the final stages, did not let go (two tries were logically refused to him), the leader of the regular season did not manage to find the solution. The ten interminable minutes (43rd-54th) spent pounding the Montpellier defense a few meters from the try line before being robbed of the ball is the perfect example. Only a superb inspiration from Fernandez, a diagonal kick to give Vilimoni Botitu a solo try (75th), crowned their efforts.

A cruel end for Castres players until the end that their supporters, energized throughout the meeting, did not fail to congratulate just as loudly at the final whistle. After the first final won by Castres, the second opposing the two teams this time slipped through the fingers of Montpellier. One everywhere, ball in the center. Never two without three nevertheless says the adage. The Castres will have the opportunity to take their revenge.

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