Unflappable Parra helps Clermont end recent final hoodoo

Clermont Auvergne banished the demons of their recent failures in finals by prevailing 22-16 against Toulon in a pulsating Top 14 showpiece.

Beaten two years ago by Stade Francais, Clermont also tasted the desperation of defeat in three of the past five European Cup finals - including three weeks ago against Saracens at Murrayfield.

But on Sunday at Stade de France it was their turn to step up from the role of perennial bridesmaids and instead it is Toulon who are left to lament a final curse of their own, having been on the wrong end of four of the last six in the Top 14, although that record is mitigated by their 2014 triumph.

In a clash punctuated by physicality and precise skill in equal measure, Morgan Parra proved the difference, the France scrum-half knocking over six out of six from the tee to finish with 17 points to add to Alivereti Raka's scintillating first-half score.

Josua Tuisova was the sole try-scorer for Toulon who, in the absence of Leigh Halfpenny on British and Irish Lions duty, turned to 21-year-old fly-half Anthony Belleau for kicking duties.

Allez les gars  @RCTofficiel pic.twitter.com/eHXqhPU7CD

— Leigh Halfpenny (@LeighHalfpenny1) June 4, 2017

Belleau was unfortunate to twice see penalties strike the upright as he attempted to bring Toulon back to within three points in the second half, Parra showing him how it was done at the other end before Clermont staved off a stoppage-time surge from Toulon deep inside their own 22 to spark ecstatic celebrations at full-time.

clermont CHAMPION DE FRANCE 2017 !!! #YellowArmy pic.twitter.com/rU8JaBPOX4

— ASM Rugby (@ASMOfficiel) June 4, 2017

It looked initially as though the contest could become one-sided as Clermont made a fierce start, rewarded by Parra's sixth-minute penalty, before a stunning try started by Nick Abendanon's steal close to his own line.

Damian Penaud raced clear down the left and slipped the ball to Raka, who produced a devastating step off his left to leave Tuisova on his backside as he finished off a remarkable score.

Parra further extended the lead with another penalty midway through the half before Toulon eventually managed to stem the yellow tide and got themselves on the board courtesy of Belleau.

Clermont were reduced to 14 soon afterwards when Fritz Lee caught James O'Connor with a high shot that prompted tempers to flare between the two sets of players.

And Toulon took advantage swiftly, working the ball wide for Tuivosa who returned the favour in dumping Raka on his rear end en route to touching down on the right despite the attentions of two further defenders.

Parra's penalty in injury time gave Clermont a measure of breathing space heading into the interval and he and Belleau traded further kicks early in the second period before the Toulon man twice struck the right-hand post with chances to bring it back to 19-16.

Belleau was replaced by Francois Trinh-Duc, who took over kicking duties and brought Toulon back to within three with 10 minutes remaining, but from the restart Parra won a crucial turnover and as Toulon transgressed he exacted punishment by splitting the posts once more.

As the clock ticked beyond 80 minutes, Toulon kicked for touch close to the line but they were unable to breach the yellow wall before them as Clermont's battling at the breakdown earned them a penalty and secured a famous victory.

#TOP14, Finale | #ASMRCT
L'émotion est incroyable sur la pelouse du @StadeFrancepic.twitter.com/YpdsnAGYnJ

— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) June 4, 2017