Clermont win captures public imagination
May 31, 2010
An outpouring of emotion followed Clermont Auvergne's century long wait to capture the title © Getty Images
France's 118 year-old Championship has seen many great days but rarely has it seen the outpouring of emotion that followed Clermont Auvergne's century long wait to capture the Bouclier de Brennus finally ending on Saturday evening.
In a scene a little reminiscent of Munster's first Heineken Cup victory back in 2006, the outpouring of euphoria wasn't confined to the club or its supporters with much of the sometimes parochial French media only too happy to celebrate the achievement of the club in finally shaking off the bridesmaids tag.
For Midi Olympique editor Jacques Verdier, the image of Clermont's normally stoic Kiwi coach Vern Cotter wiping away the tears moments after the final whistle said it all.
Verdier wrote: "Saturday, 29th May 2010. What time? 10.30pm. What about it? It was a world of emotions. A moment when the world shook and everything changed. When the sport [of rugby union] became more than just sport and its potent distractions.
"[We could see] the faces of the colourful, delighted and stirred Auvergnats, who could scarcely believe their eyes, and in an instant, melted the hearts of all of France. They reinvented the old refrain. Ten lost, one won...and we are happy. Happy for them. Happy for them to know happiness."
Twenty four hours later and in front of an estimated 100,000 delirious supporters at their homecoming in Place de Jaude, Clermont captain Aurelien Rougerie was still lost for words.
"Honestly, I don't know what to say," he told Aujourd'hui. "I still can't believe it. I'm happy, really, really happy. I don't have words to explain what I'm thinking. Give me a little time to take it all in."
Speaking to local paper L'Independant, Perpignan president Paul Goze preferred to concentrate on his own side's shortcomings.
"It was our worst game in two years," he insisted. "In that context it was impossible to compete. We were dominated and we didn't respond. I feel like we never got going. Beyond the disappointment is the frustration of not seeing the true face of a team that can dominate. It's that, even with all that experience in the knockout stages and with a title under our belts that we are not immune [to losing]."