Clermont hold off spirited Harlequins fightback
CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: ASM Clermont Auvergne held off a late Harlequins fightback to win 32-27 at the Stade Marcel-Michelin and reach the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final.
A couple of early drop goals from Clermont flyhalf Camille Lopez either side of a Marcus Smith penalty gave the French outfit an early advantage before Lopez’s halfback partner, Morgan Parra, added a penalty to stretch his side’s lead.
After a nervy opening quarter, the game came alive courtesy of some marvellous work from Clermont back-rower Fritze Lee, who took advantage of some excellent phase play to power over for the first try of the evening. Parra added the extras off the tee.
Two-time winners Clermont added a second try shortly afterwards through Damian Penaud after the France wing used his electric pace to kick past Mike Brown, collect the ball and slide across the whitewash. Parra converted the score.
Harlequins, also two-time champions in the Challenge Cup, responded with a try of their own with experienced fullback, Brown, superbly finishing in the corner after some majestic work in the lead up by Marcus Smith. Although, the flyhalf was unable to convert the try.
A Parra penalty ensured Clermont were comfortable leaders at the break, with the captain kicking another two three-pointers after the break.
The London side did hit back through tries from captain Chris Robshaw and replacement James Lang – with Smith securing the extras – to pile the pressure on Clermont and threaten a sensational second-half comeback.
The comeback looked on when Alex Dombrandt went over in the 80th minute but Clermont were able to hang on and book their spot in the Challenge Cup Final on May 10 at St James’ Park in Newcastle.
They will meet La Rochelle in the Final.
Tries: Lee, Penaud
Cons: Parra 2
Pens: Parra 4
DGs: Lopez 2
Tries: Brown, Robshaw, Lang, Dombrandt
Cons: Smith 2
Clermont: 15 Setariki Tuicuvu, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 George Moala, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra (captain), 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Arthur Iturria, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Etienne Falgoux.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Beka Kakabadze, 18 Mickael Simutoga, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Tim Nanai-Williams, 23 Peter Betham.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Alex Dombrandt, 5 Ben Glynn, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Elia Elia, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Stan South, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 James Lang, 23 Francis Saili.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)