AFP - Perpignan convincingly won French rugby's holy grail, the Brennus Shield, with a 22-13 win over Clermont remarkable for the performance of full-back Jerome Porical.
The Catalans grabbed the Top 14 title in an intensely-played game, the first time the team from the border with Spain have won the championship in over 50 years.
Clermont's navy-yellow clad fans were hoping this would be tenth time lucky for their side and they got a boost after just ten minutes when Brock James sent an accurate 30 metre punt to Napolioni Nalaga who was already flying towards the Perpignan line.
The Fijian collected the ball and made a flying try near the touch line. In spite of the angle, James unerringly made sure of the conversion.
But Perpignan supporters had cause for encouragement soon after, when the southern club's South African centre Gavin Hume found space to score an accurate drop goal from a central position.
Then a ruck infringement involving the Catalans' prop Perry Freshwater gave the dependable James the opportunity to add three penalty points to the Clermont tally.
Shortly before half-time, the referee blew a stop to the match when fists appeared to fly in the scrum but the official generously decided not to sanction anyone.
Moments before the interval, Perpignan's young kicker Porical put another three points onto the Catalans's score and when the players exited the field, the account was: Clermont 10, Perpignan 6.
The Catalan fans, in red and gold, roared as their team made ground repeatedly from the ruck, culminating when David Marty swerved past the opposition for a try. Porical converted, giving the Catalans a 13-10 lead.
Moments later the Perpignan full-back had the opportunity to add another three points when a Clermont offside infringement resulted in a penalty.
The referee whistled again, this time in Clermont's favour, and James' penalty reduced the gap again.
Clermont's discipline was going awry, and Porical was in kicking action, with a 50 metre shot taken after James was sanctioned for a high tackle on Julien Candelon. Now favourites Clermont were trailing by nine points and getting desperate, as yet again the 23-year-old Catalan put three points on the board after a rule infringement.
With ten minutes to go, Clermont coach Vern Cotter overhauled the forward line. Perpignan boss Jacques Brunel, sensing victory was within his men's grasp, also brought in fresh players from the bench.
Desperately the men from the mountains threw themselves forward but a ball off James' boot just escaped Nalaga's fingers, ending yet again Clermont's hopes of winning the title.
"We have nothing to apologize for," said a crestfallen Clermont scrum-half Pierre Mignoni on Canal +.
"The Catalans were superior and we lost the game in the details. We had been warned, and with our experience we should have done better. I am sorry for our supporters," added the France international.
New Zealand's Dan Carter, who joined Perpignan at the start of the year before being injured in February, had been watching in the grandstand.
"This team deserved it, they played a great second half and in Porical they have a great young kicker," he said.