VERN COTTER’S REIGN as Clermont head coach ended with the club’s first defeat at the Stade Marcel-Michelin in 77 games, as current Top 14 champions Castres advanced to the semi-finals after a 22-16 victory.
This defeat marks the end of an era for the Auvergne-based club, with Cotter leaving to take on the Scotland job this summer. Ultimately, the Kiwi’s time in charge of ASM will be seen as lacking in the silverware such a talented group of players might have secured.
Beyond their Top 14 success in 2010, Clermont have come up short in the Heineken Cup and domestic league repeatedly. Joining Cotter in exiting the club this summer are the likes of wing Sitiveni Sivivatu and veteran lock Nathan Hines.
Castres hung on for the win this afternoon, despite a late try from Clermont back row Damien Chouly. 17 points from the boot of influential scrum-half Rory Kockott proved instrumental, while centre Rémi Lamerat crossed for a try in the 62nd minute.
Brock James kicked three penalties and a conversion for the home side, but did miss twice from the tee too. Castres’ achievement was all the greater for the fact that they lost Rodrigo Capo Ortega and Max Evans for 10 minutes each after yellow cards.
This afternoon’s upset at the Marcel Michelin follows yesterday’s away win for Racing Métro against Toulouse. Before this season, only once had the barrages games seen a win on the road since the introduction of the phase in the 2009/10 season.
Castres’ reward for beating Clermont is a semi-final against Montpellier in Lille next Saturday.
As for Clermont, another season ends in disappointment. Incoming head coach Franck Azéma, alongside forwards coach Jono Gibbes, will be tasked with building a winning mentality within the squad next season.
New signings Jonathan Davies, Camille Lopez, Sébastian Vahaamahina, Zac Guildford, John Ulugia and Nick Abendanon will aid that process.
Top 14 semi-finals:
- Toulon v Racing Métro, Friday 16th May
- Montpellier v Castres, Saturday 17th May
Both games take place in the Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille.