Clermont down Tigers to reach semi-finals
April 5, 2014
Clermont's half-backs do their collective best to bring Manu Tuilagi down
© Getty Images
Clermont Auvergne saw off a spirited Leicester Tigers side 22-16 to book their place in the final four of the Heineken Cup.
Tigers trailed 16-0 after 35 minutes at Stade Marcel-Michelin where Clermont were unbeaten in their previous 74 games in all competitions. But Jordan Crane's try and the boot of Owen Williams saw former Heineken Cup winners Leicester come agonisingly close to ending the longest unbeaten home record in Europe.
However, Richard Cockerill's side fell just short in the end, after storming back to 19-16 down, as Thomas Waldrom's untimely yellow card midway through the second period proved costly.
Clermont dominated the first half, though it was through the boot of Morgan Parra that they led 19-7 at the break. Leicester fed off scraps but had an early glimpse when Jamie Gibson's turnover allowed Manu Tuilagi to break, only for Mathew Tait to knock-on.
That allowed Wesley Fofana to launch a daring counter-attack, eventually halted by Vereniki Goneva. Fofana threatened with his footwork whenever he touched the ball and was again involved for the opening points on 13 minutes. Thomas Domingo bashed through Louis Deacon and Fofana followed to earn a penalty. It was to be a familiar story by half-time.
Leicester paid the price for twice failing to stop Aurelien Rougerie as he drifted across to combine with his midfield partner. Fofana's quick-hands released Davit Zirakashvili before racing onto the prop's well-timed return pass to score in the 22nd minute. Parra converted from wide and added two more penalties, either side of Williams' striking the post, to steer Clermont further ahead in front of a raucous crowd.
Clermont went close to scoring a second try when Noa Nakaitaci and Jean-Marcellin Buttin combined but Tigers managed to get enough bodies under Zirakashvili to prevent the prop grounding the ball over the line. Leicester also repelled a strong surge by number eight Fritz Lee off the resulting scrum and Julian Salvi seemed to have pulled off a crucial steal, only to be penalised for holding onto the ball and Parra extended Clermont's lead to 16-0.
The visitors looked to be staring defeat in the face but Crane offered a lifeline before half-time. Williams found Gibson in acres of space with a pin-point cross-field kick and Blaine Scully drew the last two defenders to hand Crane an easy finish close to the posts. Parra struck a third penalty on the stroke of half-time but the try, which was converted by Williams, had shifted the balance in power and Leicester sensed a chance.
They were far more competitive at the breakdown and, at last, their backs had possession to play with. Goneva stepped through tackles on a mazy run as Tigers burst out of defence with Anthony Allen and Tait. Tuilagi looked to have broken clear but was hauled into touch by Naipolioni Nalaga. Scully out-jumped two defenders as Williams almost worked a second score with another kick across field but the scoring pass eluded them.
The Welshman did, however, kick three penalties while Parra and Brock James both fired wide to slash the deficit to just three points, at 19-16, on the hour. Nerves crept around Stade Marcel-Michelin as the home team's lead dwindled until Waldrom, on the field for just three minutes as a replacement, was binned for illegally trying to prevent a Clermont drive rumbling any further.
Parra kicked his fifth penalty put they were the only points Leicester conceded during the 10-minute spell to set up a tense finale. Tigers mounted a last desperate attack in the final moments and captain Slater came within two metres of the line but Graham Kitchener's over-eagerness got the better of him and James was able to clear the danger.
Wesley Fofana goes over for Clermont © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Communication error please reload the page.
Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in the opening practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had his session cut short by an engine problem
Lewis Hamilton appears to be the first victim of the FIA's controversial helmet ban after being blocked from wearing a novelty lid in Malaysia
Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic debut on August, 6, 2016, after the Rio 2016 Organising Committee released the daily competition schedule to mark 500 days to go.
Brad Thorn might be returning to Super Rugby in 2016, with a report that Queensland Reds are looking to create a "player-coaching role" for him
SANZAR has lodged an appeal against the outcome of its own judicial hearing of a dangerous tackle charge against Sharks centre Francois Steyn
Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports
Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks
Will Mercedes dominate again? Can anybody catch up with the help of a rainstorm? And will the Red Bull/Renault relationship tear itself apart? All those questions and more will be answered at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix
Maurice Hamilton pieces together what we know from the Fernando Alonso crash and explains why the latest answers raise more questions
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Tiger Woods is confident of recovering from a poor run of form to qualify for the US Ryder Cup team in 2016, according to captain Davis Love III
Jonas Gutierrez has told Canal+ he will never forgive Newcastle for the way the club treated him during his battle with cancer, but wants to stay at St James' Park beyond this summer
Lionel Messi earned more than €1 million (£740,000) a week last year to make him the world's highest-paid player and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was the best-paid coach, according to a new survey
Andy Murray has expressed fears that his game will regress without full-time coaching in a candid exchange with a fellow Twitter user as he prepares to add former world No.4 Jonas Bjorkman to his coaching team
Luis Suarez has laughed off the idea that the Barcelona players have set out to help Lionel Messi beat Cristiano Ronaldo to La Liga's top scorer award
Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?
Where does Anthony Davidson's record of 24 Grands Prix without a point rank him?
How many F1 drivers have had one win, but done it at their home Grand Prix?