I think this may be one of my longest posts – The Top 14 Final at The Stade De France is deserving of more than a few words and I seem to have ‘messed about’ with loads of photos!  Those with a nervous disposition may need to look away!

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It’s amazing how many of my visits to see my lovely daughter have coincided with a big rugby match!  Funny that!  In my big sporting year I decided months ago that my 2nd Top 14 Final was a must!

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I had if I’m honest been expecting a repeat of the Champions Cup Final and was thrilled when Stade De France beat Toulon in the semi finals to find themselves facing Clermont Auvergne in the final!

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One of my favourite players of all time, Sergio Parissee is of course captain of Stade Francais – that meant my allegiance was with the Parisian team. In spite of having a great admiration for the Clermont fans.

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My journey to Paris is an easier one than the journey I had to make to Winchester when my daughter Alexandra lived there.  35 minutes to Ebbsfleet, 2 hours on the train!  Perfect!

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Alex had (just about) managed to get herself out of bed to meet me at the station – It’s always a complete delight to see her.  My enormous case for a one night stay had lots for her new studio, well bedding anyway.  We took that back to her new home then went out and had lunch; Moules Mariniere for me – and in the shadow of Sacre Couer.  What a way to spend an afternoon!

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I took an UBER taxi to the Stade De France – I had to exchange my voucher for a ticket and wanted to be in plenty of time.  Ticket collected I went in search of my fellow Saracens fans Matt, Steve and Matt.

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They’d  met up with a group of Clermont fans, who they’d connected with in St Etienne.  Brigitte had got tickets for the lads enabling them to have what was a wonderful experience!

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Meeting up with the group really added to my day too, my 1st attempt at the Top 14 in 2013 was a bit scary, no one spoke to me and I didn’t know the stadium.  Having been to The Stade a few times I’m a lot more comfortable being there and having lovely, friendly people to talk to made all the difference!

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Game time approached and I knew there would be a great atmosphere so I mad my way to my seat with plenty of time to spare.  I’d bought the top category ticket with no knowledge of where I’d be siting – but boy I had a good seat!  Virtually on the half way line, the view was amazing!

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The build up to the game was pretty amazing – we were treated to a drum troupe – the noise they made was very impressive!  A huge rugby ball topped by glamorous ladies made its way round the stadium as the drums played.

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The teams emerged to great fanfare,  Clermont were coming into the game with an unhappy history having lost 10 of their 11 previous outings in the top French finals.  Stade had beaten Clermont in 2007 – that was their latest trophy.   Clermont’s one win had been in 2010.

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A lot at stake for both teams – could the team who’d finished 4th emulate the Premiership winners Saracens?  I really hoped so for the sake of Parissee!

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The game it has to be said, wasn’t a classic, it was decided by the boot, with no 5 pointers and if I’m honest neither team looked like scoring a try.  And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, to a large degree it felt from the beginning that the team who made the fewer mistakes would win the game.

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I believe Clermont made the wrong choice at 10,  Camille Lopez can be hugely inconsistent!  The loss of Wesley Fofana  and Jonathan Davies in the centres saw Aurelian Rougerie starting.  He has been a star over the years, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have been the 1st choice, he made several bad choices during the game.

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A cliche, but it looked to me as if Stade wanted the win more, to a degree Clermont looked defeated from early on.  The men in blue and yellow made more than a few mistakes, none more so than a stupid, unnecessary shoulder charge by Julien Bardy – that saw him rightly spend 10 minutes on the naughty step.  It wouldn’t have shocked me to see a red brandished.

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I’d judge that the referee was inconsistent during the game, blowing his whistle for offences one moment, ignoring the same offence the next.  That didn’t help the game as a spectacle.

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Stade largely held their discipline as well as the ball, something Clermont struggled to do.  The game was decided on penalties, with the final score being Stade Francais 12 Clermont Auvergne 6.

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A low scoring, yet, in the stadium at least, exciting game.  Stade deserved their victory on the day no doubt about it.

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A controversial opinion now; I understand that all the teams know what happens at the end of season, but should 2 cup games really decide who the Champions for the year are?  Very hard for the team who finishes top of the pile – Toulon and Northampton Saints this season.

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I stayed to see the victorious team take the trophy and their lap of honour, I had to see the joy on one man’s face.  Parissee had collapsed in tears when the final whistle went – those tears soon turned to a huge grin!  Wonderful for him!

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My choice to get back to Alex’s place was another UBER taxi, little did I know I was standing on  closed road!  There was traffic flowing through!  Luckily the police took pity when the driver explained the language difficulty.  I had a smooth journey back in a very swish BMW 5 Series, swish but expensive – 28 Euros – but in this case the safety was priceless

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A few facts

  • Cost of Ticket           125 Euros
  • Beer                               9 Euros
  • Soft Drinks               4.5  Euros
  • Ladies loos – bit rough and ready, but plenty of them and clean

I only knew about the beer because I wanted to buy a snazzy cup, but could only do that if I bought the beer!  Needless to say, I passed!

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