Rugby

Courageous Leinster Trip Themselves Up As Clermont Reach Third Champions Cup Final

Courageous Leinster Trip Themselves Up As Clermont Reach Third Champions Cup Final

Irish hearts were broken for the second day in succession as Clermont edged their way past a battling Leinster with a 27-22 victory in Lyon.

Two David Strettle tries and a penalty from the boot of Morgan Parra had given the hosts a well-deserved 15-0 lead, Leinster's set piece and pack play so far off the mark it seemed the Top 14 outfit might run up a serious score on their young visitors.

A spirited Leinster fight back in the second quarter saw them go down the tunnel trailing 15-3 but hopeful, having finally gained a foothold in the affair.

Their momentum continued on the other side of the break, though it appeared the game's true juncture moment had arrived on 55 minutes with a rather extraordinary 8 or 10-point swing in Clermont's favour. Dan Leavy had appeared to give Leinster the lead as he crashed over wide left following a breathless Leinster counter-attack.

Aurélien Rougerie, however, protested the score, claiming he had been held by Leavy at the base of a ruck a full 80 yards down the pitch as Leinster began their crusade into open field. The assistant referee suggested Nigel Owens review the incident, and Leavy's dark arts were laid bare for all to see, costing him his own try and, as a result, gifting Clermont an eminently kickable penalty. Morgan Parra applied the rest, and so instead of Leinster leading 17-15 or even 19-15 should Sexton have kicked the conversion, Clermont extended their lead to 18-12.

Minutes later, sustained Clermont pressure seemed destined to steer them over the Leinster line only for poor handling and a crucial Isa Nacewa intervention in the corner to scupper their advances. From the resulting Nacewa grubber, however, Clermont built the phases outside Leinster's 22 before Camille Lopez dropped a sumptuous goal from all of 35 yards, extending his side's lead to 21-12.

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But then a try out of nothing, and a moment of astonishing centre play from Garry Ringrose blew the affair wide open once more. The 22-year-old's magical individual effort from deep made it look like Clermont had formed a guard of honour for the young 13, but replays perhaps better portrayed the genius of his lung-bursting effort.

With the game in the balance, however, Leinster tripped themselves up once more with two silly penalties - one of which was converted by Parra. The second was missed, but from the resulting 22, Camille Lopez landed his second stupendous drop goal of the evening to the vociferous roars of Stade de Gerland.

A late, late Sexton penalty brought Leinster to within five points once more, but Clermont closed the show to reach their third European Cup final, where they'll face two-time champions Saracens at Murrayfield.

SEE ALSO: Watch: Dan Leavy's Dark Arts Cost Him His Own Try 80 Yards Down The Pitch

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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