The Tarnais dominated the Red and Black, double reigning champions, this Friday in the semi-finals, in Nice (24-18). They will challenge Montpellier or UBB next week for a sixth Brennus.
Special envoy to Nice
A hard, tense and breathless match. But, in the end, it was Castres Olympique, sensation of the regular season, who made Stade Toulousain bend (24-18). Ugo Mola’s players suffered and they did not manage to reverse the trend this Friday against the strong, determined Castres, who therefore have an appointment with Montpellier or UBB in the final. A real final phase match!
Castres, the sensation of the year
For the CO, the current season was already historic with a regular phase completed for the first time in the lead (the ranking here). Excess pressure for the Tarnais? Not at all, the players of Pierre-Henry Broncan, renowned for their collective strength and their unfailing commitment, derailed the Toulouse machine, taken in power and aggressiveness. The Castres supporters, fewer in number but much noisier, let their joy burst out at the Allianz Riviera. Between 2018 and 2019, the CO had become the bane of its neighbor and rival, winning five times in a row. The Toulouse people no longer seemed to have a complex. Not this year at the crucial moment, they caved in the most important showdown of the season between the two rivals and neighbours.
Toulouse will not defend their title
The double champion of France is down. A week after their fine victory against La Rochelle in the play-off, Stade Toulousain failed to follow up against Castres Olympique in the semi-finals of the Top 14. The Rouge et Noir will not have the opportunity to attempt the pass of three (after the 2019 and 2021 coronations) against Montpellier or Bordeaux-Bègles who face each other this Saturday (9 p.m.). Antoine Dupont’s teammates seemed to have evacuated the disappointment of their elimination in the Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster, to gain momentum in the final phase of the Top 14. Missed. Toulouse will not be able to attempt to raise a 22nd Brennus shield. And they didn’t prove the statistics wrong: until then, they had never managed to be crowned champions of France when they went through the play-offs. This has been the case again this year.
Castrese roughness against Toulouse speed
The contrast in style was obvious. Pretty screaming. On the one hand, players from Toulouse who love wide open spaces. On the other, rough and combative Castres. And from the start, the Stadium set the tone by multiplying the attacks and interval shots. Audacity quickly rewarded by a sumptuous test concluded by Matthis Lebel (2nd). And, subsequently, the players of Ugo Mola, are those who created the most dangerous, the most frank opportunities. But, after a laborious start, the Castres were able to raise the bar, put their opponents at fault – yellow cards for Rory Arnold (22nd) and Julien Marchand (37th) – and return to the match thanks to the boot of Urdapileta (10-6, 28th). They picked up the score at the break (10-9), despite a try denied to Palis after a judicious kick from its opener. And even took the lead after returning from the locker room by scoring through Arata (43rd). Before the Toulouse awakening symbolized by the test of Romain Ntamack (48th). But, in the tough trench warfare that took place in Nice, the Toulouse forwards – although jostled at times – were able to meet the challenge imposed by the CO. Each team going blow for blow, for a goalscoring duel between Ramos and Urdapilleta. Before the test of victory, of all beauty, scored by Dumora (76th). Logical given the physiognomy of the match.
Ntamack will not have been enough
Great players show off in great matches, they say. An adage which was again verified on Friday with Romain Ntamack. The opening half of Stade Toulousain and the XV of France came to light, leading the maneuver perfectly and playing just in Nice. Coming back from the Six Nations Tournament, he had appeared dull, often out of it. But, like his friend Antoine Dupont in the fray, the two friends have recovered their health as the final sprint approaches. From the start of the match, Ntamack gave a few boosts in the Tarn defense, even trying (but missing) a drop at the start of the match (14th). The Blues opener even scored an unstoppable try (48th) by tearing up the Castrese defense. A breath of fresh air more than precious when his team knew a shot less well. The Toulouse opener, with his flashes and his management of the game, could have been one of the great architects of the victory of Stade Toulousain. Except that the Rouge et Noir tripped over the carpet in Nice. But Ntamack did not deserve it.
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