Two late tries helped St Esteve beat hosts Carcassonne 21-14 in a repeat of last season’s Elite 1 Championship final at the Stade Albert Domec.
Joan Guasch’s drop goal had nudged the champions in to a 9-8 lead before the hosts took charge, only for Ugo Perez’s try seven minutes from time to restore their slender lead and Corentin Le Cam’s second sealed it with five to play.
St Esteve had forced Carcassonne in to a mountain of tackling in the first half and that meant the Canaries just ran out of steam in the final stages.
The hotly-anticipated final game of the French Magic Weekend saw a repeat of both last season’s domestic finals.
The hosts started sluggishly, and in the opening quarter, barely managed a play-the-ball in the St Esteve half, as a catalogue of errors and sloppy play gifted repeat sets to the Dragons, even failing to reach touch with a penalty at one stage.
Despite having all the possession, and largely on the Carcassonne line, St Esteve couldn’t find a way through, and it would be the hosts that took the lead on 25 minutes. Their first foray in to opposition territory in virtually the whole match, off the back of a penalty, saw a penalty awarded in range of the posts, and Patrick Alberola slotted it over for 2-0.
St Esteve would finally get over for a try on 28 minutes, a quick tap from a penalty 30 metres saw quick hands, and then the 6’8” Le Cam broke the line and couldn’t be stopped.
But Carcassonne would take an 8-6 lead in to the break, Thomas Malfaz taking a short ball from 10 metres out to score.
They needed to come out better in the second half, but found themselves in penalty trouble in the early exchanges, and on 50 minutes, Brochon levelled the scores at 8-8.
From the kick-off, St Esteve worked their way back up the field and Guasch took the opportunity to add a one-pointer to nudge them in front.
That would prove to be crucial in the final stretch. With both sides down to 12 men following a double sin-binning, Carcassonne re-took the lead when Emir-Walid Bouregba’s short kick sat up amongst some hesitant Dragons defenders, and he was able to chase and touch down.
But after a scrappy last tackle play had broken down, Perez picked the ball up and kicked, taking advantage of a slip by Carcassonne full-back Clement Soubeyras to score by the side of the posts, enabling Brochon to put St Esteve one point in front with seven minutes to play.
And when Le Cam plucked a high kick out of the air on 75 minutes on the clock, Brochon’s conversion put the game beyond the hosts.
Line-ups and scorers
Carcassonne: Soubeyras, Benet, Bienes, Albert, Escamilla, Alberola, Pallares, Leveille, Khedimi, Emmitt, Bouregba, Canet, Agullo. Subs: Tetart, Zava, Soum, Malfaz.
Tries: Malfaz, Bouregba. Goals: Alberola 3
Sin bin: Canet
St Esteve: Brochon, Flovie, Laguerre, Ambert, Franco, Guasch, Meresta-Doucet, Vailhen, Zafra, Scimone, Le Cam, Chan, Perez. Subs: Cozza, Salabio, Mencarini, Martin.
Tries: Le Cam 2, Perez. Goals: Brochon 4. Drop goal: Guasch
Sin bin: Franco
Half time: 8-6