Clermont down Munster to reach 1st Euro Cup final
Favourites Clermont qualified for their first ever European Cup final after ousting twice former winners Munster 16-10 in a bruising semi-final at Montpellier on Saturday.
- Published: 28/04/2013 at 01:49 AM
- Newspaper section: news
Clermont's Brock James kicks the ball during their European Cup rugby union semi-final match against Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, southern France. Favourites Clermont qualified for their first ever European Cup final after ousting twice former winners Munster 16-10.
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.
But Clermont captain Julien Bonnaire said the Jaunards will not be settling simply for that piece of history.
"For Clermont, for me, for everyone, it will be our first (final). It's many things, it's the validation of a lot of work, many difficult past experiences but payback for all the hard work the team has done," he said.
"But it's not an end in itself to reach the final. You play a final to win it.
"You always remember the winners. The toughest get there, it will only be great if there's something at the end."
Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga scored a try for Clermont while France scrum-half 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 19-15 reverse to Leinster in Bordeaux at the same stage.
Munster were first on the scoreboard as veteran fly-half 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.
That failure to breach the French line cost the Irish province, according to their experienced lock Paul O'Connell.
"We had a chance to win, we spent enough time in their 22 just before half-time and several times in the second half," he said.
"We just didn't score enough, a bit like all season."
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.
Flanker Bonnaire admitted that score had sent jitters running through his side.
"Yes, we were scared. We lacked good management in the important second half moments," he said.
"The great teams manage the battles better, we've still got a lot of work to do there."
The final whistle sparked 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.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
- Position: News agency