Perfect end to Laurent era
Perfect end to Laurent eraSHARE
It was the perfect way to end the era of the two Laurents as Castres stunned overwhelming favourites Toulon to snatch the Top 14 title.
A moment of genius from South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott and a pair of inspired Remi Tales drop-goals made the difference as Castres won 19-14 to earn their first French title since 1993 and only their fourth overall.
And it was the ideal way to finish a glorious four-year cycle under which coaching duo Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers gradually edged Castres to the ultimate prize in French rugby.
Since joining in 2009, they guided Castres to a Top 14 play-off quarter-final in their first two seasons, the semi-final last season and now to the title this term.
"They're going but we're finishing in the best possible way," said winger Romain Martial.
"There's a new era that's going to begin for Castres, we've ended a great one, we've closed a chapter and turned over a new page.
"It's the end of a cycle, they're going on to new horizons and we are too. That's the way to view it and not be bitter.
"It's about winning this Brennus Shield (title) together. We've heard all season that the coaches are leaving and it's going to affect us but I think we've answered that."
Labit and Travers will take over the reins of big-spending Racing Metro next season with a host of stars set to join them in the French capital, including Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, Wales pair Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts, as well as Northampton props Soane Tonga'uiha from Tonga and South African Brian Mujati.
Someone else who is rumoured to be on his way out from Castres is Kockott, although he refused to confirm that. Press reports claim he will be joining French giants Toulouse next season and he showed them a flash of what they can expect on the stroke of half-time with a magician's ingenuity.
Kockott dummied a pass back to fly-half and captain Tales in the hole before darting around three Toulon players and dotting down under the posts.
That was a game-changing moment for the underdogs, according to Martial.
"Just before half-time with Rory Kockott's try, the match was really tight at 3-3 and we managed to go in with a seven-point lead, so it was a first break," he said.
"And Remi Tales's drop goals, we managed to get in their 22 two or three times and every time we scored points. At this stage of the competition it's really important to take advantage of your strong moments, we managed to do that and bring home these little medals."
For Kockott it was a classic case of the weak overcoming the strong.
"I can't find the words to explain what I'm feeling, everyone thought it was David against Goliath," he told France 2 television.
"Toulon were favourites. This was the work of the whole team, like with my try. I scored thanks to the forwards' work, that's rugby.
"I don't know if I will still be here next season. I've had a difficult season but we'll see afterwards, I want to enjoy this victory."
Tales was in jovial mood as he joked: "I think it's going to be a very short night. I'm French champion and I want to make the most of it. It's fantastic what we've achieved, it still hasn't sunk in but we've achieved something massive."
He told Canal Plus: "I had some success but most of all I made the forwards' work pay off. They were very good, we were great in defence and we managed to make the most of our positive moments."