Paris - Four penalties by Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn saw Stade Francais
pip Clermont 12-6 to claim the Bouclier de Brennus for the winners of
the French Top 14 on Saturday.
Two somewhat jaded teams fought out an at
times dour match in which Clermont ill-discipline was matched by a stout
Stade defence, making for a game that failed to hit the heights the Top
14 has offered all season.
Stade's victory sealed just a second title since 2007: eight years ago the Parisian club having also beaten Clermont (23-18).
For Clermont, it represented more heartache after losing this season's European Cup final to Toulon.
also reinforced their tag as perennial bridesmaids, having now been
losing Top 14 finalists on no fewer than 11 occasions despite oozing
class and danger from one to 15.
Stade had sent out a warning to
Clermont by dispatching treble European champions and defending Top 14
winners Toulon 33-16 in last weekend's semi-final.
A tight first-half saw Clermont suffer for their ill-discipline under the watchful, but correct, eye of referee Pascal Jauzere.
Clermont's Portugal flanker Julien Bardy was rightly yellow carded in the 14th minute for a reckless armless charge into a ruck.
hard-hitting, well-organised wide defence nullified Clermont's vaunted
attack which boasted European player of the year Nick Abendanon and
Fijian flyer Napolioni Nalaga.
Steyn kicked two penalties in the
first 21 minutes, but Morgan Parra missed a long-range effort shortly
after, with the Parisians very much playing to the referee and looking
very much in control at the set-piece.
A third Steyn penalty saw
Stade out to 9-0 before Camille Lopez hit a penalty just before
half-time to give the blue-and-yellows some hope.
Steyn sent his
first effort in the second period just wide and then sent an ambitious
drop-goal inches off as half-back partner Julien Dupuy fired his troops
The South African, who has amassed 688 points in 59 Tests
for the Springboks (only 18 of which were losses, eight times to
Australia and seven times by New Zealand), then scuffed a second
penalty, the pressure showing for both teams.
James, on as a replacement for Lopez, pinged over a second penalty for
Clermont in what was turning into a right slugfest in which attack was
given no corner.
James' cross-field kick a moment later was just
out of the reach of Jean-Marcelin Buttin, summing up Clermont's
Abendanon, not picked for Stuart Lancaster's
preliminary England squad for the World Cup because he plays in France,
sparked a rare attack late on, supporting No 8 Fritz Lee well tackled as
the line beckoned.
James then missed a penalty that would have drawn the teams level, with just 10 minutes to play.
Stade promptly shut up shop, Steyn happily stepping up to boot his fourth penalty to seal victory for the Parisians.