As is often the case with ASM Clermont Auvergne, it is impossible to determine whether the season was a success or a failure. Even if the results were not amazing, the Clermontois team was defeated each time by the strongest of them. Back to a season that was mixed again.
- Top 14 Rank : V (15 o’clock, 1 n, 10 d), then defeated in a jump from Bordeaux (25-16).
- Champions Cup Tournament Elimination in the quarter-finals by Stade Toulouse (12-21).
Retroactive effect: strong on the weak, weak on the strong
Usually the difference between the best teams is made during big matches against the strongest teams in the tournament. This is exactly the problem of the season for ASM Clermont Auvergne. Morgan Barra Partners were often dominated against the big players. Abroad, ASM only went on to win the Stade Français among the qualifiers for the final stage. At Michelin, Franck Azima’s men still beat Toulouse and La Rochelle, finalists, by a narrow margin each time.
At the same time, Clermontois often had a lot of points against teams smaller than the Top 14. This allowed Yellow and Blue to qualify for play-off (5). With big wins against Agen, Bayonne, Pau or Brive, ASM earned several significant bonus points at the end of the season. An important role was played by the back of Clermont, notably Penaud, Barraque or Moala.
In the European Cup, the Auvernatics fared better off their bases. During the group stage, ASM went first for a win in Bristol before losing at home to Monster. They qualified for match eight, winning the Wasps meeting in England, trying after the whistle of Machoshima (final score 25-27). Finally, the adventure in the quarter-finals ended with a 12-21 defeat at Claremont against Stade Toulouse.
Player: Kotaro Matsushima
Yellow Army supporters are used to seeing their good backs in Marcel Michelin. So when the rulers announced Signing Kotaro Matsushima in Winter 2020, they have set a date with the show. Under the pressure of more than one successful World Cup on home soil, the Japanese first had to adapt to the top 14 and the atmosphere of the Auvergne volcanoes.
Very quickly, the 28-year-old giant made his mark in the Yellow and Blue lineup. After Isaia Toeva left Toulon, Matsushima was able to continue matches without competing for his spot. His highly successful start to the season eased all the observers and underlined his full potential when it came to breaking lines of defense.
His stats are fairly good as he scored 10 attempts in 28 matches in all competitions. He played 2046 minutes, making him one of the most used players by Frank Aziz. Despite this, Matsushima’s weight wasn’t enough at the end of the ASM season. At the big meetings, like all his teammates, he didn’t know how to be serious enough to change matches. Thus, the results after the first season are rather positive even if, given his position within the team, we can expect more in the coming years.
Future prospects: A page is turned in ASM
11 years old! 11 years of Frank Azima being on the ASM crew. He arrived from Perpignan in 2010 right after Breinos’ first shield in the club’s history, and was in charge of the full-back until 2014. Following the departure of the legendary Vern Cotter that year, Azim took over the leadership of the team. In 2017, he will present his second French Championship title and Challenge Cup in 2019 to Auvergne fans. But after many years at Claremont, the 50-year-old decided to take on a new challenge.
Even if we do not yet know where he will attempt his new adventure, we have known his successor for several weeks now. Previously working at home, Juno Gibbs left La Rochelle after failing in the Round of 14 and Champions Cup final. The New Zealander will try to bring color back to the club that trained his attackers between 2014 and 2017. He also takes the ASM legend in his travel bags, Davit Zirakashvili Who was responsible for the naval melee. The Georgian, who has played 337 games for Clermont, will undoubtedly play a similar role next season.