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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Castres upset Toulon with first French Top 14 title victory in 20 years

Castres upset Heineken Cup champions Toulon with a 19-14 French Top 14 final victory at the Stade de France on Saturday. Toulon were unable to achieve the double, as Rory Kockott and Remi Tales took center stage with a try and two drop goals respectively.

Favourites Toulon were aiming to do the double after an outstanding season that included victory over Clermont in the European Cup final just a few weeks back. Castres, themselves having beaten Clermont in the Top 14 semi final, proved to be more clinical and played the smarter rugby.

A team with a far smaller budget than giants Toulon, Castres went about their business as the men in red made uncharacteristic handling errors, and Jonny Wilkinson hit the posts more than once.

Instead it was inspirational South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott who stepped up, controlling the game while scoring a well taken try late in the first half.

"I can't find the words. It was David against Goliath today. We are a team in which there is no star, noboby is better than the others," said Kockott, who scored eight points with the boot.

In the final ten minutes Remi Tales added to the Toulon misery as he slotted two very well taken Wilkinson-esque dropgoals, extending the lead and ultimately, sealing the win.

A late consolation try to Delon Armitage, who scored in the semi final too, brought the score closer but it did little to change the result, as Toulon will have to wait another year for a crack at the title.

"It's hard to take in, we did not play the way we wanted," said Wilkinson. "We need to keep the same spirit next year and learn from the lessons from today. We were not good enough to win."

It was Castres' fourth French title, but first since 1993, and a great send off for the coaching pair of Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers, who are heading to Racing Metro.

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