Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Know Your Enemey: Clermont: The History

Full Name: Association Sportive Montferrandaise Clermont Auvergne
Known as: Clermont, Montferrand, L’ASM
Nickname: Les Jaunards, The Vulcans
Formed: 1911
Ground: Parc Des Sports Marcel Michelin (Capacity 18,030)
Colours: Yellow, Blue & White
Star Man: Wesley Fofona

Formed in 1911 as Association Sportive Michelin the modern day Clermont Auvergne were known from 1922 to 2004 as Montferrand, the name of an historic predecessor town to the current city of Clermont-Ferrand. 
Clermont have gained a reputation for bottling the big finals, throughout their history they have reached 27 finals; winning 7 and losing 20, including losing the French Championship Final 10 times before finally winning the Brennus in 2010.

Playing in white the club’s first real period of success came in the ‘30s losing the final of the Challenge Yves du Manoir in 1935, the Championship final in ’36 and ’37 before defeating Perpignan 23-10 to claim their first silverware in 1938 Yves du Manoir final. 

There was a long wait before more success as they lost the final of the Coupe de France in both 1945 and 1947, a Yves du Manoir final was lost on a tie break in 1957, a Championship Final was lost to the tiny La Voulte club 3-0 in 1970 and 1972 lost a Yves du Manoir final to double winning Beziers. 

Success finally came in 1976 with an Yves du Manoir victory.  But even that was not without its tragedy as just a week before international wing Jean-Francois Philponeau died on the Marcel Michelin pitch after being struck by lightening.  The end stand occupied by the famous “Ultras Vulcans” now bears his name.

In 1978 another chance to take the Brennus to Clermont was squandered as Beziers won 31-9 in Montferrand’s first trip to the Parc des Princes.  The 80s yielded fewer finals but one success when Grenoble were defeated to claim another Challenge Yves du Manoir.

There was a 16 year gap before their next Championship final.  In 1994 with both Saint-Andre brothers in tow Montferrand were leading Toulouse 16-9 in the second half. Guy Noves was in his first season as coach and Toulouse roared back to win 22-16.

The Toulouse curse struck again in 1999 and 2001 as Clermont lost in the Final to Noves’ men 15-11 then 34-22.  The team hit hard times in the early 2000s featuring in two successive relegation play downs, despite high profile signings like our own Richard Cockerill and Pat Howard.

The success of the modern era started with the appointment of Vern Cotter in 2006.  The Kiwi coach led Clermont to four successive Top 14 finals from 2007 to 2010.  The first was another epic Clermont heartbreaker.  They led Stade Francais 15-6 in the 60th minute; only to lose 23-18 following Radike Samo’s late try.

They lost again to Toulouse in 2008 before in 2009 throwing away another lead in the final.  Leading Perpignan 10-3 they scored only 3 more points as the Catalan’s scored 19 points to claim their first title in 54 years.  One year later and with revenge in mind they shattered the curse with a dominant 19-6 win against Perpignan.

Vern Cotter described winning the final as getting “the gorilla off our backs” such was the pressure of the 10 defeats.  Clermont have lost in the semi-finals each year since but with the Brennus finally in their collection the disappointment is reduced.

Instead they have set their sights on the European title.  In 2012 they were within a Fofana fumble of knocking out reigning champions Leinster in the semi finals before going one closer last year.  Leading 15-6 it seemed like the European crown was destined for Clermont, only for that gorilla to reappear and Toulon to score 10 points in three second half minutes to steal the victory.  I’ll never begrudge Jonny Wilkinson his moment of glory but in the tale of Clermont it was another nearly but not quite.

1 comment:

  1. Sound like a bunch of chokers to me - bring it on!