Paris – Castres edged to a 19-14 victory over Racing 92 on
Saturday to set up a French Top 14 final clash against Montpellier.
Christophe Urios’s side struck an early blow through Tongan
flank Maama Vaipulu, and despite a fightback from European Champions Cup
runners-up Racing, they battled to an attritional victory thanks to 14 points
from the boot of Benjamin Urdapilleta.
Castres will take on regular-season table-toppers
Montpellier at the Stade de France on June 2 in their first Top 14 final since
2014, having won the title the previous year.
They only snatched the sixth and final playoff place with a
late-season charge, before beating Toulouse to reach this semi-final.
The eighth-minute score from Vaipulu was followed by a
conversion and penalty from Argentinian Urdapilleta as Castres quickly moved
10-0 in front.
But Racing, who were beaten by Leinster in the European Cup
final earlier this month, hit back through winger Juan Imhoff, with Teddy
Iribaren slotting over the extra two points.
Louis Dupichot touched down to give Racing the lead for the
first time in the match in the 25th minute, but Iribaren’s second conversion
proved to be their final points.
A brace of penalties from Urdapilleta saw Castres take a
16-14 half-time advantage, before successfully halting Racing in the second
A fourth penalty for Urdapilleta with 16 minutes to play
ensured that Racing would need a try to draw level, and Castres clung on in the
face of a late onslaught to book their ticket for the final.
On Friday, Montpellier thrashed Lyon 40-14 to back up their
excellent regular season by qualifying for the final for only the second time.
Vern Cotter’s men will be bidding for their maiden French
top-flight title, after finishing a point clear of Racing in the league table.