Romain Ntamack's late try secures Toulouse's 22nd Top 14 title


Toulouse clinched their record-extending 22nd domestic crown in a thrilling French Top 14 final against La Rochelle on Saturday.

Romain Ntamack's exceptional late try sealed a 29-26 victory, denying La Rochelle the opportunity to secure a domestic and Champions Cup double.

Ugo Mola, the head coach of Toulouse, maintained faith in the same lineup that propelled them to victory in the semi-final against Racing 92 the previous Friday. Meanwhile, Ronan O'Gara, the coach of La Rochelle, selected an unchanged squad from their successful Champions Cup final campaign in May.

With a sold-out Stade de France buzzing with anticipation in warm early summer weather, the score remained 6-3 after the first quarter of the game. Thomas Ramos of Toulouse kicked two penalties, while La Rochelle's Antoine Hastoy converted one, as temperatures soared to 28°C.

After a closely contested opening 25 minutes, Toulouse made their mark when Argentine center Santiago Chocobares capitalized on Jonathan Danty's error in midfield, sprinting 50 meters to score. Ramos added the conversion, extending Toulouse's lead to 13-3. La Rochelle's Hastoy narrowed the gap with his second penalty after his half-back partner Tawera Kerr-Barlow chased down Ntamack near his own try line, bringing the score to 13-6.

La Rochelle finished the first half strongly, with Kerr-Barlow burrowing over for a try, and Hastoy's successful conversion leveling the score at 13-13 heading into halftime.

O'Gara's team emerged from the break with determination, and prop Uini Atonio powered over the line following a break by Pierre Bourgarit. Hastoy's successful conversion gave La Rochelle a 20-13 advantage with 35 minutes remaining.

However, Toulouse mounted a spirited comeback, as Ramos slotted three crucial penalties to regain the lead at 22-20 with 18 minutes left on the clock. Hastoy responded with two successful penalty kicks of his own, putting La Rochelle ahead 26-22 with just nine minutes remaining.

With less than two minutes left in the match, Toulouse were awarded a penalty, and Ntamack, seeking redemption for an earlier mistake, attempted a kick to the corner. However, the ball went dead, granting La Rochelle a scrum instead of a defensive lineout near their own try line. Toulouse conceded a penalty from the resulting set-piece, and Hastoy cleared his lines as the yellow-clad half of Stade de France anticipated victory.

Yet, their hopes were dashed in the final moments when Ntamack showcased his brilliance, breaking free from his own half to score a sensational try. Ramos sealed the victory with a successful conversion, prompting jubilant celebrations among the Toulouse faithful, reaffirming their dominance in French rugby.