France’s Damian Penaud and Wesley Fofana struck the telling blows for Clermont Auvergne in the Challenge Cup Final, scoring the tries that fired the Top 14 side to the title.
The men from the Auvergne powered past La Rochelle 36-16 on Friday at St James’ Park in Newcastle, earning the trophy for the French giants who last won the competition in 2007.
After starring as a breakthrough player in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, scoring two tries, wing Penaud lined up alongside international teammate Fofana in the showpiece final that showcased plenty of French talent.
With Penaud and Fofana there was France fly-half Camille Lopez, scrum-half Morgan Parra and forwards Sebastien Vahaamahina and Arthur Iturria, while La Rochelle featured Geoffrey Doumayrou, Dany Priso, Uini Atonio and Gregory Alldritt.
— Fédération Française de Rugby (@FFRugby) May 10, 2019
It was Parra who began the scoring with a penalty on 13 minutes before having to go off injured, replaced by Scotland No.9 Greig Laidlaw.
The Scot added a penalty but Ihaia West responded to make it 6-3, before Penaud’s magical moment.
The 22-year-old, who scored tries against Italy and England in the Championship, was presented with an opportunity 15 metres out and made sure he took it, using his pace on an outside break to cross the line.
West responded with a penalty before and after half-time but from there on in Clermont proved too powerful, with Laidlaw kicking another six points before man-of-the-match Fritz Lee won a crucial turnover and then drove over at the back of a maul.
La Rochelle wouldn’t relent though and No.8 Alldritt got through a mountain of work – 17 carries, 73 metres gained and a whopping six defenders beaten – prop Atonio touching down for a try on 65 minutes.
The game was up though nine minutes from time as Lopez prodded the ball through the 22 and Fofana anticipated the grubber to touch down his side’s third.
Laidlaw added a late penalty to take his hail to 18 points – Clermont, Challenge Cup champions 2019.