On Saturday at glamorous Stade de France, Stade Français rose up and toppled the log leaders in the great Parisian tradition of revolution. Against their bewildered visitors up from the Massif Central the pink Parisians scored five tries to one - and it could have been an even bigger difference.
After an energetic start the visitors d-faded away and looked more and more confused till eventually they could not perform even the simplest of functions with any sort of efficiency. Their handling was poor, especially when David Skrela and Ludovic Radosavljevic were the halfbacks. But even that did not compare with the idiocy of their line-outs. In the second half they won just one of their ten throws. One! But they persisted in trying to throw deep where the Parisians simply took the ball off them. Perhaps it was the addition to Stade Français staff of the former Clermont hooker, Mario Ledesma, that had provided the home side with trade secrets.
It was a game that promised much and the players gave every impression of wanting to play but the scrums were messy - eight collapses and five penalties out of 12 scrums.
Then the tackles were a la World Cup rather than law. The ball was slow and well sealed by the team in possession.
Two penalties by Skrela in the first five minutes gave the Auvergnats a 6-0 lead but from the second one Stade Français won the kick-off and went left where Francis Fainifo had an overlap as Kini Murimurivalu was sucked in and raced 24 metres down the touchline to score in the corner.
Skrela kicked a third penalty but by now Stade Français were well on top with their back dominant. Rodrigo Roncero burst ahead and Clermont were in dire trouble. Elvis Vermeulen picked up from the base of a scrum, near his line, ran and passed towards Radosavljevic. The ball did not reach the scrumhalf as Felipe Contepomi stuck out a left hand, juggled and intercept, ran through Skrela and scored. 10-9. For the first time Stade Français had the lead but they did not again relinquish it. In fact they nearly extended it when they attacked down the left. Martín Rodriguez ran sharply and grubbered for Fainifo who did not control a ball bouncing kindly. But Clermont had a five-metre scrum. Then Clermont had their best bit of play of the whole match. They won a tighthead and then passing across their in-goal they ran out of trouble and only a desperate tackle prevented their scoring a try.
Rodriguez was close but teenaged Jean-Marcellin Buttin caught him from behind. Still Stade Français had a five-metre scrum. Sergio Parisse picked up at the back and then picked out Paul Williams for a perfect pass and the big centre scored. Contepomi took over the kicking and goaled. 17-9 with two minutes to go.
Before the match there had been entertainment at a largely pink Stade de France with its pink goal posts. there was singing and basketball acrobats. Then came half-time and the ringing out of church bells. Not that Stade Français needed prayers but to signal half-time and eventually full-time.
In the first four minutes of the second half Contepomi goaled twice. 23-9. Stade Français had a line-out. They mauled and then substitute scrumhalf Jérôme Fillol shaped to pass, dummied, accelerated, swept past Buttin and scored in Vincent Debaty's tackle. 30-9.
Shortly after this Clermont used a penalty to get an attacking line-out in which Dimitri Szarzewski played a support player without the ball and was sent to the sin bin. While he was away Clermont scored their try.
First Benjamin Kayser burst close to the line but lost the ball. Stade Français cleared a long way downfield and Clermont countered. Buttin chipped, gather and raced some 35 metres to score a brilliant try. 30-16 after 57 minutes.
When Clermont lost their sixth line-out, this one a couple of metres inside their half, Stade Français attacked. Parisse had a long run and Pascal Papé scored. 37-16 with 11 minutes to play.
The most noteworthy incident in that time was a yellow card for Jamie Cudmore for an attack on Fillol.
The referee for this match was George Clancy of Ireland as France takes the initiative to make Europe's referees generally available. It may not have made sense to a Frenchman to be told not to 'make a meal if it'!
For Stade Français:
Tries: Fainifo, Contepomi, Williams, Fillol, Papé
Cons: Contepomi 3
Pens: Contepomi 2
Pens: Skrela 3
Stade Français: 15 Paul Warwick, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Paul Williams, 12 Martín Rodriguez, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Felipe Contepomi , 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 David Lyons, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 David Attoub, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Rodrigo Roncero
Replacements: 16 Aled De Malmanche, 17 Rabah Slimani, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Scott Lavalla, 20 Antoine Burban, 21 Jérôme Fillol, 22 Morgan Turinui, 23 Stanley Wright
Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Kini Murimurivalu, 13 Regan King, 12 Gonzalo Canale, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 David Skrela, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Elvis Vermeulen (captain), 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Jason White, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Lionel Faure
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Julien Bardy, 19 Alexandre Audebert, 20 Kevin Senio, 21 Brock James, 22 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 23 Clément Ric
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Laurent Cardona, Christophe Malterre
Television match official: Jean-Marie Piraveau
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