Clermont go back to top with 76th straight home win
Clermont's centre Wesley Fofana (C) is tackled during a French Rugby Union match against Castres at the Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, on April 11, 2014 - by Thierry Zoccolan
Wesley Fofana and Napolioni Nalaga scored the home tries in reply to a score for Castres from Uruguay lock Rodrigo Capo Ortega.
Quite apart from sending Clermont back to the top of the table and denying Castres a losing bonus point -- leaving them fourth but in the firing line of several teams aiming to secure a top six play-off spot -- it also gave New Zealander coach Vern Cotter's men revenge for last season's Top 14 play-off semi-finals defeat.
But it wasn't without difficulty as Castres led 8-6 at half-time and with 15 minutes left only a knock-on from South African-born France flanker Antonie Claasen ruined a promising position inside Clermont's 22 with the score at 13-11.
"We came across a Castres team that came looking for points," said Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra to Canal Plus.
"We struggled in the first half but we smiled in the second. We have the extra pressure of wanting to stay unbeaten at the Marcel-Michelin stadium. Everyone gives it their all when they come here."
An early drop goal from Australian fly-half Brock James gave Clermont the lead 3-0 but that was soon cancelled out by a penalty from Rory Kockott.
The hosts looked to get the upper hand on 24 minutes as a pinpoint cross kick from James hung in the air long enough for Fofana to get under it.
But under pressure from English wing Marcel Garvey, Fofana just failed to gather the ball and the chance went begging, although the referee brought back play for an infringement and Parra kicked Clermont into a 6-3 lead.
The reigning champions hit straight back after a clever dart from South African Kockott helped set up a ruck on the Clermont line, with Capo Ortega burrowing over.
Kockott missed the conversion and also a penalty on the stroke of half-time, giving Castres just a narrow 8-6 lead at the break.
Parra was also wayward from the tee and failed to put Clermont in front four minutes into the second period.
But Clermont continued to press and scored their first try on 56 minutes.
Fiji-born France international wing Noa Nakaitaci made a break down the left allowing Clermont to batter away at the champions' line.
Quick ball from Parra found space out to the right and a brilliant miss pass from James put Fofana in to score, with Parra converting.
Kockott kicked a penalty four minutes later leaving Castres just 13-11 down.
Parra responded in kind and then five minutes from time Clermont got the push at a scrum on Castres' 10-metre line and although they had a penalty coming, quick-thinking from Parra opened up a gap in Castres' backline and the scrum-half laid the ball on for flying Fiji wing Nalaga to canter over to score.