Rory Kockott's boot kept Castres in the hunt long enough to help beat Montpellier 22-19 in extra time in their Top 14 semi-final on Saturday.
It was not the perfect show on which Castres has relied so often this season, but he succeeded when it mattered to counter Francois Trinh-Duc's supply of three-pointers. The teams were tied at 19-19 at full-time in Lille, each having scored a try; and Kockott knocked over some impressive strikes, one of which was 55m on the angle.
It started well for Castres, as South African No 8 Antonie Claassen muscled his way over from behind the advancing Castres scrum in the 31st minute and Kockott landed the easy conversion to extend their lead to 13-3. But Montpellier hit back immediately; Rene Ranger touching down after a great break and offload from Wynand Olivier. Then it became kicking duel as Castres held off some enterprising play by Montpellier. With two minutes to go, Kockott pushed a penalty wide from 52m which would have sealed the match.
It was left to Fijian centre Seremaia Bai to slot a drop goal just before the end of the first 10-minute half to put Castres ahead. It was enough.
Castres now meet Toulon, who beat Racing Métro 16-6 on Friday night, keeping alive their hopes of a Top 14 and European Cup double. Jonny Wilkinson contributed 11 points with a brilliant drop goal, two penalties and the conversion of Matt Giteau's opportunist try.
Montpellier – Try: Rene Ranger. Conversion: Francois Trinh-Duc. Penalties Trinh-Duc (3). Drop goal: Trinh-Duc.
Castres – Try: Antonie Claassen. Conversion: Rory Kockott. Penalties: Kockott (4). Drop goal: Seremaia Bai.
Montpellier – 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Jonathan Pelissie, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Thibault Privat, 4 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Subs: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Lucas Dupont , 22 Anthony Floch, 23 Paea Fa'anunu.
Castres – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Remy Grosso, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Max Evans , 10 Remi Tales, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Subs: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Saimone Taumoepeau, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Jan Bornman, 20 Cedric Garcia, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Seremaia Bai, 23 Mihaita Lazar.
Photo: Francois Lo Presti/AFP Photo