Grenoble forwards coach Bernard Jackman lauded his team’s defensive commitment as the French minnows shocked Top 14 leaders Clermont 16-13.
Grenoble, who were only promoted to the top tier of French rugby in 2012, are now up to fourth in the league after winger Alipate Ratini ran in a stunning try with 12 minutes left on the clock. Irish scrum-half James Hart, who came on as a 52nd minute sub, knocked over the conversion and the Grenoble defence withstood a 10-minute onslaught by last year’s Heineken Cup finalists.
With Hart, who was suffering from a gastroenteritis bug all week, starting on the bench, the kicking duties fell to Grenoble winger Julien Caminati. He traded penalties with Clermont’s Morgan Parra and the home side led 6-3 on 23 minutes when Julien Malzieu ran in a converted try for Vern Cotter’s men.
Caminati scored a penalty after the break to make it a 10-9 deficit but a yellow card for Grenoble fullback Benjamin Thiery, followed by a Brock James penalty, had the visitors looking good for the win. However, when a Clermont attack broke down outside the Grenoble 22, Nigel Hunt pounced with the intercept, Rida Jaouher fly-hacked on and Ratini won the chase to the ball for a blistering try that Hart converted.
Cotter brought on proven internationals Benjamin Kayser, Damian Chouly and Lee Byrne and his side laid siege to the home line. There was the late drama of a video replay but it went in Grenoble’s favour and their unbeaten home run continues. “The players were phenomenal again,” said Jackman after his team’s win.
The spirit they show in defence, week-in, week-out, is embarrassing because sometimes our system lets us down but they play for each other. You can’t buy that. Defence on the line for that last phase of play, I think 25 or 28 phases but we managed to save our tryline. It was really, really impressive.”
In a season that has delivered wins over big-spending Racing Métro and Toulon, Jackman was asked if the victory was Grenoble’s finest yet. “Without a doubt,” he replied. “For me, Clermont are the best team in Europe, not just in France. When they start to go forward in attack, it is very hard to stop them. But our discipline was good, particularly at the end when we didn’t give away a penalty.”
“They’re a phenomenal side and this is the first time we’ve beaten them over the last two seasons [since promotion] so it’s a nice scalp to get,” he added.
“Tonight was a good performance and it was very important to bounce back after the disappointment of last week against Bordeaux. It has been a tough week but that’s four points now. We’ve Biarritz to come now, next week, so we need to stay consistent.”