This is a first and what a first! Montpellier inaugurated its record by winning the first title of champion of France in its history in front of Castres (29-10), Friday, in the final of the Top 14. After two defeats, against Toulouse (15-10) in 2011 then in front of the CO already (29-13) in 2018, the MHR finally lifted the Shield of Brennus at the end of a full season, ending in 2nd place in the standings before outclassing Bordeaux-Bègles (19-10) then Castres.
At the Stade de France, the Héraultais simply turned the 2022 final into a nightmare for the helpless Castres, unable to react to the fury of Philippe Saint-André’s men. They thus scored three tries in the first quarter of an hour by Arthur Vincent (6th), Florian Verhaeghe (10th) and Anthony Bouthier (12th). But the Montpellier residents have above all succeeded in muzzling the Tarnais, yet the leader of the regular season and the fallers of the Toulouse ogre in the half.
Ten years after the surprise title of the footballers of Olivier Giroud, Souleymane Camara and Younes Belhanda, the MHR of Arthur Vincent, Yacouba Camara and Mohamed Haouas is crowned in turn. They also imitate men’s volleyball teams (8 titles, the last of which in 2022) and men’s (7 titles between 1970 and 1977), handball players (14 titles, the last in 2012) or BLMA basketball players (2 titles, the last in 2016).
“We want to write our history”, proclaimed the Montpellier players in heart before their third Top 14 final. The sports pantheon of the Hérault city was therefore filled with a first Brennus on the evening of a match where all turned in their direction. But the rugby players did not steal their coronation. This success was a summary of their season, solid if not brilliant. Because the MHR, on the brink of the abyss when PSA arrived in January 2021, proved to be one of the most consistent teams of the season, only leaving the top 6 for six days, from the 3rd and 8th day. . They were even in the top two from the 14th day until the end.
A feat that bears the hallmark of Saint-André, the former coach of the Blues who fell out of favor after the rout against the All Blacks (62-13) during the 2015 World Cup. Eighteen months after his arrival at Place de la Comédie, PSA, well helped by his assistants Olivier Azam (forwards) and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (backs), won the European Challenge last season and the Top 14 this year, his first national title after the English championship with Sale in 2006.
The men of billionaire Mohed Altrad, fifth budget of the championship, also relied on their youth (Arthur Vincent, Louis Foursans, Paolo Garbisi…) and a clever recruitment (Zach Mercer, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Alexandre Bécognée…), supervised by grognards (Guilhem Guirado, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Benoît Paillaugue…).
Around a simplified game but not devoid of audacity, the MHR has relaunched the machine. Here he is champion of France for the first time in its history. Even the premature exit of hooker Guilhem Guirado on concussion (27th), for his last match, failed to derail the Montpellier train.
For the CO, nothing went: three tries conceded in the first twelve minutes, their opener Benjamin Urdapilleta (211 points this season) released before the half hour mark, three turnovers each for Filipo Nakosi and Vilimoni Botitu, only sixty successful tackles… In short, an evening to forget. Except for Montpellier supporters.