The game: 29-10
If logic was respected with Friday night in Saint-Denis pitting the two best teams in the league at the end of the regular phase, leaders Castres were completely dominated in the first period by Montpellier, euphoric and sharp, scoring three tries in six minutes (6th-12th) and knocked out their opponent. With this clear success, Montpellier won the first Shield of Brennus in its young history with a tough fight and in a spectacular way right from the start.
After an argument (2nd), just to warm up after the long presentation of the players to the President of the Republic, which had cooled everyone, the Castres suddenly disappeared from this final. Feverish, clumsy, undisciplined, they opened intervals in which the Héraultais happily sank.
Winger Arthur Vincent took a pass at the foot of the huge Zach Mercer (6th) to open the scoring, then the slim Florian Verhaegue emerged from behind a tug like a US Soccer tight-end (10th) from the second row , and defender Anthony Bouthier added a third try from the end of the line, brilliantly served with a blind cross from Vincent after a millimeter attack on a salvage ball (12′).
Lead 17:0, then 20:0 through a penalty goal by Benoît Paillaugue (21st), the Tarnais sluggish, amorphous, in a fateful word, turned largely overwhelmed at the break (23:3). Coach Philippe Saint-André’s MHR had lost his hooker veteran Guilhem Guirado (27th) to a KO, while the CO had progressed since the 14th without his calf-injured conductor Benjamin Urdapilla (36). But if the MHR didn’t lose the thread, the castres, they, would have crumbled long ago.
In the second half, the Tarnais showed a much better face but the three tries they could have scored (Dumora in the 51st, De Benedittis in the 58th, Chilachava in the 59th) were rightly denied. The tarn’s impotence was summed up by this sequence. No goal was scored on either side until Paolo Garbisi’s goal (68′, 26-3), as if this final had blocked most of the score at half-time or even from the start. 12 minutes.
Numerically superior in the 63rd (yellow card against Van Rensburg), Castres Olympique could not fault the excellent defense of an MHR that ensured this historic success, built first and he is happy, through three great offenses. If we’re willing to take this as anecdotal, in the 75th minute, Castres try Vilimoni Botitu for a long-range counterattack.
After losing two finals (2011, 2018), this is the first French league title Montpellier has won since the club was founded in 1986.
Player: Thank you Mr. Mercer!
He was everywhere, efficient and sharp. Zach Mercer, that third-tier England international (2 selections in 2018) who joined MHR from Bath at the start of the season, was all those good shots in the opening twelve minutes that were crucial. A low pass at foot (6th), decisive glades (10th), recovery (12th) and fire support to go straight into the camouflage defense (35th): so many implications that put his partners in favorable situations. After such a performance, Zach Mercer (24 years old, 1.91 m, 111 kg) returned to the sights of the coaches of the XV de la Rose.
The fact is: the defense of the Hérault looked on
As the fourth defense of the top 14, Montpellier emphasized the quality of the duels. Evidenced by the three camouflage highlights blocked in front of the line between the 51st and 59th without then counting two interceptions on enemy advances at the end of the wing. Castres could hope to get back in goal early in the second period, but it was here that coach Saint-André’s men knew how to maintain their lead and break Castres’ momentum to secure that title. Even if they cracked a little at the very end of the game (75th), with no real impact on the fate of this endgame.