CA Brive: When Will They Finally Win a Top 14 Championship?
CA Brive History and Highlights.
CA Brive could consider themselves one of the unluckiest teams in the history of French rugby. They played four French Championship finals throughout their history but failed to win any of them. The club have also lost a Coupe de France final and two Challenge Yves du Manoir finals.
Despite their struggles in domestic competitions, CA Brive are former European champions. They are part of an elite class of only three French clubs that had the honor of lifting the European Championship trophy.
CA Brive begun their journey in 1910 at Brive-la-Gaillarde, a city under the département of Corrèze. Before World War II broke out, Brive shifted from rugby union to rugby league. After the war, however, the club started to play union rugby again.
CA Brive were regular participants in the French top flight. They emerged as the most prominent union rugby force from the now-defunct Limousine region. But, they could not translate their pedigree to silverware. A second division league title won in 1957 was their only trophy to show for many years.
In 1965, Brive progressed to the French Championship final for the first time. But SU Augen beat them convincingly to claim the Bouclier de Brennus. Seven years fast forward, Brive got the chance to make amends for their first French league final loss. The final took place in Lyon again, but the opponents were different this time.
AS Béziers was the final hurdle Brive needed to overcome to get to their first-ever French top-flight title. But, they could not stop the reigning champions from defending the trophy. AS Béziers retained the title with a comfortable 9-0 victory.
Brive made it to the 1975 final to set up a rematch with Béziers. By then, the southern France team had established themselves as the ultimate force in French union rugby. AS Béziers claimed all the previous four iterations of the competition. Unsurprisingly, Brive went into the final as underdogs.
They were on the brink of writing a fairytale story as they fought toe-to-toe with the juggernauts. But they could not put a perfect ending as they agonizingly fell short again. The final score read 13-12. Béziers barely edged past the resistance Brive had put up. That match at Parc des Princes is seen as one of the best matches ever to have taken place in the history of French rugby.
After years of flirting with success, Brive had their most successful phase in the ’90s. In 1996, they were back in the French Championship final for the first time in 21 years. However, the French premiership crown remained elusive as Toulouse picked up a 20-13 win in the final.
It was not the Black and White’s first visit to Parc des Princes that year. Five months before their French Championship final defeat to Stade Toulousain, Brive won their first top-flight domestic title. They cruised past SA Augen with an 11-0 victory to win the Challenge Yves du Manoir. It was the club’s third attempt at winning the honor after losing to RC Narbonne in 1974 and Section Paloise in 1963.
CA Brive made history the following year. They made it to the final of the Heineken Cup, currently known as the European Rugby Champions Cup. They beat Leicester Tigers to become the first team in history to become European champions without winning the domestic league. No other teams managed to match that feat to this day.
Brive had it to the final in 1998 as defending champions. But, they suffered a narrow 19-18 defeat to Bath Rugby to surrender their continental supremacy.
That final defeat was the beginning of the end of a glorious chapter. Two years later, Fédération Française de Rugby penalised Brive for bad financial management. As punishment, they were demoted to D2.
Beyond that point, CA Brive have been in an on-again, off-again relationship with the French top division. They got relegated multiple times and got back after spending a few years in lower tiers. Brive’s most recent Top 14 promotion was in 2018. Since then, they have managed to escape the drop.