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Mercer stars as Montpellier claim Top 14 glory in Paris

Zach Mercer

Arthur Vincent and Anthony Bouthier both scored tries as Montpellier beat Castres to claim the Top 14 title and give retiring hooker Guilhem Guirado the perfect send-off.

Orchestrated by Italian fly-half Paolo Garbisi, Montpellier scored three tries in the opening 12 minutes to set up their first top-tier domestic title triumph at Stade de France.

French internationals Vincent and Bouthier crossed either side of Florian Verhaeghe’s effort as Montpellier raced into a 23-3 lead at the half-time interval.

Castres scored a consolation with five minutes left through Vilimoni Botitu but the result was never in doubt after Montpellier’s early blitz put them in total command.

And England international Zach Mercer, who made his debut in 2018, gave Eddie Jones food for thought after being named man of the match for his performance in the final.

“We outperformed them massively and it was a great performance from the lads,” Montpellier number eight Mercer said. “That’s the best start we’ve had all season.

“The boys were passionate, every pass stuck. We were clinical. What an outstanding team this is, especially when you consider that last year they were fighting relegation.”

When asked about the chances of an England recall in the future, former Bath Rugby back rower Mercer added: “I’ll always be interested in playing at the Rugby World Cup.

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“If that opportunity arose it would be outstanding. I can’t play for England while I’m in France, I’ve taken that sacrifice.”

The victory for Montpellier was extra special as the game was the last for their 36-year-old hooker and former France international Guirado before his retirement.

Guirado made the last of his 74 Test appearances for Les Bleues at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and was a regular in the Guinness Six Nations Championship over the years.