Clermont overpower Leinster to reach Champions Cup final
It finished 27-22 in France17:19 Sunday 23 April 2017, 17:19 23 Apr 2017
French giants Clermont Auvergne overpowered Leinster 27-22 to set up a clash with Saracens in the Champions Cup final.
Clermont pressurised the Irish side from the off and wave after wave of attack saw them camped in Leinster territory early on. David Strettle kicked over an on-rushing Leinster defence out wide for flanker Peceli Yato to touch down to open the scoring. Morgan Parra converted from the touchline.
Clermont's Peceli Yato scores the first try of the game. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Isa Nacewa then succumbed to a moment of unnecessary madness and held back David Strettle when Scott Spedding broke down the line.
Nigel Owens spotted the infringement and sent the Leinster captain to the bin for ten minutes while Parra slotted over another three points to bring the score out to 10-0.
The French side continued to attack at every opportunity only for Jack McGrath to win a valuable turnover and relieve the pressure on the 12 minute mark. Leinster's line-out continued to malfunction though - handing possession back to Clermont.
David Strettle scored in the corner soon after after more Clermont pressure. Parra missed conversion and the score stood at 15-0.
Clermont's David Strettle scores his sides second try. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Soon after, Leinster almost capitalised on a turnover in their own 22 when Luke McGrath sent Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose racing towards the Clermont line. Carbery took a brilliant line of Ringrose and was about to offload to Nacewa for a certain try only for Strettle to perform a last ditch tackle and force a knock-on.
Parra missed the chance to extend Clermont's lead when he hooked a penalty wide in the 36th minute. A late Leinster attack saw Sexton knock over a penalty to leave it 15-3 at half time.
Leinster's Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie
Leinster emerged for the second half as if their season depended on it and went at Clermont from the whistle. Relentless pressure drew three penalties in the opposition 22 which Sexton converted and with just over 30 minutes left - it was 15-12.
A pivotal moment came when Leinster looked to have scored a brilliant team try down the near touchline only for play to be eventually called back after Leavy was spotted holding Rougerie at a ruck which opened up the initial space for the break.
Parra knocked over the the resulting penalty to bring the scores out to 18-12 on 56 minutes.
Clermont mounted another attack in the Leinster 22 only for the Irish side to halt their momentum. The ball was played back to Camile Lopez who slotted over a drop goal to make it a two-score game at 21-12.
Clermont's Camille Lopez kicks a drop goal. Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Leinster needed a moment of magic if they were to pull this one from the fire. Sexton decided to run everything from his own 22 and the ball eventually came to Ringrose who jinked through the Clermont defence to run in from just inside his own half. Sexton converted to make it 21-19 and set up a tense final 10 minutes.
Leinster continued to attack from everywhere but to their own detriment. The French side manufactured a turnover and Lopez kicked a penalty to give them some breathing space at 24-19.
Scott Spedding had the opportunity to stretch the lead but he pushed a long range penalty wide. However, Sexton attempted a short drop-out only for Clermont to reclaim possession. Their pack set up for Lopez to drop another goal and the fly-half duly obliged to take the scores out to 27-19.
Leinster wouldn't lie down though and forced another penalty which Sexton slotted over to make it a five point game with a minute remaining.
Critically, Clermont won the restart and held on to possession to see out the end of a pulsating match. They now meet Saracens in the final in May.
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