For the second year in a row Castres Olympique upset the apple cart by beating the colossal ASM Clermont in the Top 14 play offs. To be fair to Castres, they are defending champions but having finished 6th in the regular season, no one gave them much of a chance against Clermont and their winning streak at home.
The thing is, Rugby in France is all about the playoffs, and teams that may have cruised a little in the regular season click up a gear and deliver some stunning results, and mid way through the second half Castres put Clermont away with a superbly taken try by Rémi Lamerat.
There are some lovely element to this try, especially if you’re interested in back play. Worth noting is how deep the Castres backs are sitting on second phase – this gives them time to come onto the ball at pace but also allows vision of the entire Clermont defence and how it’s moving. As such they can see where gaps are appearing and adjust their running lines to exploit this. This is especially useful when you have a 1st receiver like Rémi Talès who is happy to bring it to the line and pass under pressure. On this instance it interests the Clermont defence just enough to allow Lamerat to see James has drifted off his defensive line and isolate him with his run.
Castres then show excellent composure to put the movement away, no one panicking and going for the 50/50 pass (watch Lamerat when tackled on his first line break he looks to pop the ball up off the ground but makes a good decision to just hold onto it).
It’s not only a great try but more importantly it’s a well timed try. Clermont had just held out a man down due to Gerhard Vosloo’s yellow card, as he returns to the field of play Clermont would have been feeling confident that back at a full 15 they would be able to pressure Castres and take the game – instead they lapse concentration and first Lamerat exploits James defence followed by Kockott’s lovely break around the fringe of the ruck.
It’s small margins like this that change the shape of big games.
Author: The Dead Ball Area