Toulouse beat La Rochelle for Top 14 title
SPOTLIGHT: South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe kicked the first drop goal of his career for Toulouse as they beat La Rochelle 18-8 at the Stade de France on Friday.
The Springbok produced a moment of brilliance as kicked a 50-metre drop goal during his team victory over La Rochelle, who features in their first Top 14 final appearance just seven years after promotion.
Kolbe’s teammate Jerome Kaino capped his illustrious career by winning the French Top 14 for a second time.
Two-time Rugby World Cup winner Kaino, 38, retired after helping his club to a record-extending 21st league title, as well as a European and domestic double.
Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola, who beat the same opposition in May’s Champions Cup final, started Thomas Ramos at flyhalf in place of fellow France international Romain Ntamack who was sidelined with a head injury since last Saturday’s semi-final, with Kaino on the bench.
La Rochelle head coach Jono Gibbes, who is leaving to take over at Clermont next season, made one change from last weekend’s last-four win over Racing 92 as Geoffrey Doumayrou wore the No. 12 shirt instead of Jules Favre.
In a tight opening 20 minutes Mola’s holders controlled the scoreboard but not possession in front of a 14,000-strong crowd, a record for French rugby since before the coronavirus pandemic hit last March.
Ramos kicked a long-range penalty goal before the 25-year-old slotted just the second drop goal of his senior career to give the record five-time Champions Cup winners a 6-0 lead.
Ihaia West missed an early shot at goal for La Rochelle and, although Gibbes’ outfit continued to make waves into opposition territory, they failed to take advantage of the domination.
Ramos added a penalty before Kolbe’s quick-thought effort at goal from 50m out, to make it 12-0 at the break.
The forecasted rain began to fall in northern Paris as the players returned for the second-half and West made up for his early error from the tee to cut the deficit to 12-3 after two minutes of the final 40.
Kaino, who also won the Top 14 in 2019 with Toulouse, came on for the last of his 346 senior appearances with half an hour to go to deafening applause from the Toulouse faithful behind one tryline.
West missed a second penalty before Ramos slotted two in the final quarter to give Toulouse a comfortable 18-3 cushion.
La Rochelle claimed a late consolation thanks to replacement prop Dany Priso’s 77th minute try but failed to avoid a fourth loss of the season to the champions.
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) June 25, 2021