Clermont beat Leinster 27-22 in Lyon on Sunday to set up a European Champions Cup final against Saracens. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Having lost to Toulon in the 2013 and 2015 deciders, Clermont will be hoping for a case of third-time lucky at Edinburgh on 13 May. However, to finally get their hands on European club rugby's biggest prize, they will have to beat the defending champions, who defeated Munster 26-10 in Dublin on Saturday.
Clermont made a fantastic start to this semi-final, racing into a 15-0 lead after 13 minutes.
Peceli Yato did well to chase down David Strettle's chip-kick into the in-goal area and Morgan Parra nailed the touchline conversion.
Leinster captain Isa Nacewa was then yellow-carded for pulling Strettle back by his jersey when he didn't have the ball, with Parra kicking the resultant penalty.
Five minutes later, Strettle left Dan Leavy for dead along the right-hand touchline and cut back inside past Joey Carbery to score.
Leinster finally got on the board when Johnny Sexton kicked a penalty three minutes into first-half stoppage time, and the flyhalf would slot another three in the first 13 minutes of the second half to reduce the deficit to only three points.
The visitors appeared to have hit the front in the 55th minute when an attack, which began with a lineout just outside their 22, ended with Leavy planting the ball on Clermont's tryline. But TV replays showed Leavy had held Aurélien Rougerie's foot at an earlier ruck, which created the hole through which Fergus McFadden had broken away, and the score was disallowed.
Instead of being 17-15 or 19-15 ahead, Leinster found themselves 18-12 down when Parra slotted the resultant penalty. Camille Lopez then kicked a drop goal to give the hosts a nine-point lead.
Garry Ringrose gave Leinster renewed hope when he scored a superb 60m try, stepping off his right foot past a defender and then fooling another with a dummy. Sexton kicked the conversion, only for Lopez to respond with a penalty and another drop goal to give his side a 27-19 lead.
Sexton kicked a penalty with two minutes remaining, but Clermont regained possession from the restart and were able to run down the clock.
Clermont – Tries: Peceli Yato, Joey Carbery. Conversion: Morgan Parra. Penalties: Parra (2), Camille Lopez. Drop goals: Lopez (2).
Leinster – Try: Garry Ringrose. Conversion: Johnny Sexton. Penalties: Johnny Sexton (5).
Clermont – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Damien Chouly
(c), 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphael Chaume.
Subs:16 John Ulugia, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic , 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Damien Penaud.
Leinster – 15 Joey Carbery, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Isa Nacewa (c), 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Zane Kirchner.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images