ASM Clermont Auvergne head coach Franck Azema has praised his side’s defensive work as they defeated fellow TOP 14 side La Rochelle 36-16 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final at St. James’ Park in Newcastle on Friday night. 

Clermont limited La Rochelle to a solitary try from prop Uini Atonio and 11 points from the boot of fly-half Ihaia West, despite the maiden finalists having more possession and territory than the two-time winners throughout the showpiece final. 

That led Azema to highlight the defensive display shown by his team, who drew 11 penalties from La Rochelle, claimed 18 turnovers and enjoyed a perfect record on their 13 lineouts. 

He said: “We started the match very strongly and remained patient, we resisted when we had to – the pack was leading the way. 

“Twice La Rochelle were about to score and I want to congratulate the pack tonight for their hard work today.” 

Not content with a Challenge Cup triumph, Azema now has eyes set on contending for the Heineken Champions Cup next season.  

The 48-year-old added: “First and foremost this is what we have gained after one season of effort. We started the season with the ambition of winning this trophy and we have now achieved it.  

“This is no small trophy and we have achieved something we have worked extremely hard for tonight and that is credit to an outstanding group of players. 

“Of course, this is great for confidence. It was a high-intensity match and a team we know well, but this was a very demanding match.  

“We now have to use this confidence now to move up.”