Clermont march into first Euro Final
Sat, 27 Apr 2013 19:50
O'Gara turned back the clock
Favourites Clermont qualified for their first ever European Cup Final after ousting twice former winners Munster 16-10 in a bruising semifinal at Montpellier on Saturday.
The French Top 14 leaders will face either compatriots Toulon or English Premiership pacesetters Saracens, who play at Twickenham on Sunday, in the May 18 Final.
Fijian wing Napolioni Nalaga scored a try for Clermont while France scrumhalf Morgan Parra kicked 11 points.
Clermont totally dominated the first period but dogged defence from the 2006 and 2008 champions kept the score at a respectable 13-3 at the break.
And when replacement Denis Hurley crossed midway through the second period to reduce the arrears to 16-10, Clermont knew they were in a dogfight.
But the Vulcans held out to make up for last year's painful 15-19 reverse to Leinster in Bordeaux at the same stage.
Munster were first on the scoreboard as veteran flyhalf Ronan O'Gara stroked over a penalty from 30 yards after Clermont were pinged for collapsing a maul.
But those were the only points the Irish province scored in the first period.
The opening try for Clermont on nine minutes came after a searing break from former New Zealand wing Sitiveni Sivivatu stretched the Munster defence.
Clermont went wide right and then spun the ball left where they had a huge overlap, although Nalaga ignored his outside support and stepped inside through a gap to score just to the left of the posts.
Parra knocked over two penalties inside the first 17 minutes but thereafter Clermont failed to make their dominance count on the scoreboard.
Munster would have been relieved to be trailing by just 10 points at the break, although they blew a chance to reduce the deficit just before half-time as their forwards lost the ball in contact as they banged away at the home try line.
Another Parra penalty stretched Clermont's lead but O'Gara rolled back the years with a cleverly disguised grubber to send Hurley over in the right corner, before also adding the extras.
Clermont almost committed suicide as Nalaga dallied over a bouncing ball just in front of his line and two Munster players came close to capitalising before the French scrambled the ball to safety.
And when the Final whistle sounded it signalled wild scenes of celebration both on the pitch and in the stands as Clermont's long wait to reach a European Cup Final came to an end.
Pens: Parra 3
Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Regan King, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines (captain), 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Clement Ric, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Jean Marcel Buttin, 23 Noa Nakaitaci.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 , 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Denis Hurley.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Leighton Hodges (Wales), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
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