Four penalties by Springbok five-eighth Morne Steyn allowed Stade Francais to pip Clermont 12-6 on Saturday to claim the Bouclier de Brennus for the winners of the Top 14.
Two somewhat jaded teams fought out an at times dour match in which Clermont ill-discipline was matched by a stout Stade defence, making for a game that failed to hit the heights the Top 14 had offered all season.
Stade’s victory sealed just a second title since 2007: eight years ago, the Parisian club also beat Clermont (23-18).
For Clermont, it represented more heartache after losing this season’s European Cup final to Toulon.
It also reinforced their tag as perennial bridesmaids, having been losing Top 14 finalists on no less than 11 occasions despite oozing class and danger from one to 15.
Stade had sent out a warning to Clermont by dispatching treble European champions and defending Top 14 winners Toulon 33-16 in last weekend’s semi-final.
In a tight first half, Clermont suffered for their ill-discipline under the watchful, but correct, eye of referee Pascal Jauzere.
Clermont’s Portuguese flanker Julien Bardy was rightly yellow carded in the 14th minute for a reckless armless charge into a ruck.
A hard-hitting, well-organised wide defence nullified Clermont’s vaunted attack which boasted European player of the year Nick Abendanon and Fijian flyer Napolioni Nalaga.
Steyn kicked two penalties in the first 21 minutes, but Morgan Parra missed a long-range effort shortly after, with the Parisians very much playing to the referee and looking in control at the set-piece.
A third Steyn penalty put Stade out to 9-0 before Camille Lopez hit a penalty just before halftime to give the blue-and-yellows some hope.
Steyn sent his first effort in the second period just wide and then sent an ambitious drop-goal inches off as halfback partner Julien Dupuy fired his troops forward.
The South African, who has amassed 688 points in 59 Tests for the Springboks (only 18 of which were losses, eight times to Australia and seven times by New Zealand), then scuffed a second penalty, the pressure showing for both teams.
Australian Brock James, on as a replacement for Lopez, pinged over a second penalty for Clermont, but later missed an attempt that would have drawn the teams level, with just 10 minutes to play.
Stade promptly shut up shop, Steyn booting his fourth penalty to seal victory for the Parisians.