FRANCE WINGER YOANN Huget scored two tries as Toulouse won the French title for a 20th time beating Clermont 24-18 on Saturday.

Huget dotted down either side of the break as the side who finished in pole position in the Top 14 table at the end of the regular season lifted the title in their first final appearance since 2012.

Clermont, who scored a record amount of tries for a side during the 26-game campaign, failed in their attempt to win a European and league double after lifting the Challenge Cup in May despite a flawless kicking performance from Scotland’s Greig Laidlaw.

The Stade de France pitch had been damaged by concert from K-Pop boy band BTS a week earlier but it failed to hamper both teams’ intent to play. Laidlaw opened the scoring within the first two minutes with a penalty after early fisticuffs, crossing the 200-point mark in the league for the season.

Toulouse captain Jerome Kaino chose for a shot at goal three minutes later and France’s Thomas Ramos brought the teams all square 3-3 after nine minutes. Laidlaw and Ramos then slotted a further penalty each for a 6-6 score with a quarter of the game gone.

Toulouse went into the lead on 28 minutes as South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe took a wide arching run targeting a vulnerable Alivereti Raka and fed Huget in the corner. Ramos missed the touchline conversion for a 11-6 score. Kolbe was then shown a yellow card after 33 minutes.

Captain Jerome Kaino in action for Toulouse. Source: Francois Mori

Clermont’s Fritz Lee broke free with Peceli Yato alongside in support but Kolbe tackled the Fiji back-row early and he spent the rest of the half in the sin-bin. Laidlaw slotted his third three-pointer of the game to close Toulouse’s advantage as the first half ended 11-9.

Ramos re-established his side’s five-point lead with a penalty on 48 minutes following heavy pressure from Champions Cup losing semi-finalists then Laidlaw converted another three-pointer to close the gap to 14-12 with less than half an hour to play.

On 54 minutes, Huget, again making the most of Raka’s poor positioning, scored his second try at the end of the stadium filled by fans in red and black.

The ball was worked wide by the likes of Ramos and Maxime Medard, the sole survivor of their last appearance at a Top 14 final in 2012 and Huget dived over unopposed for his 10th try in all competitions for the campaign and Toulouse led by nine points.

Laidlaw kept his perfect record for the match with his fifth effort as Clermont trailed by 21-15 with less than 20 minutes to play. Ramos added another penalty goal and France fly-half Camille Lopez did so too for a 24-18 score.

– © AFP, 2019

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