Clermont into Top 14 final

Fijian winger Napolioni Nalaga scored both of his team’s tries to lead Clermont to a convincing 21-7 win over Perpignan in the French Top 14 semi-finals here on Saturday.


Watched by 55,000 people in a sweltering Stade Velodrome, Nalaga turned on the style to score in each half and set up a final showdown with either Stade Francais or Toulouse, who meet in Bordeaux on Sunday.


His stunning brace also took his season’s try tally to 18, easily the championship’s top scorer.


Clermont winger and skipper Aurelien Rougerie said his team had been rewarded for their build-up.


“It was a difficult match in terms of intensity levels but we managed things well and in attack and counter-attack, we are very satisfied,” said the French international.


“We were dominating in the first half but had to be patient. There is no euphoria in the team because there is another big match ahead of us.” Table-toppers Clermont had finished 17 points ahead of fourth-placed Perpignan during the regular season and had the match virtually wrapped up at half-time when they were 16-0 ahead.


Fly-half Brock James opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a 30-metre drop goal before slotting home a 20th-minute penalty after Perpignan hooker Marius Tincu had been penalised.


Three minutes later Nalaga scored his first try as he broke free from the challenge of Perpignan fly-half Nicolas Laharrague to cross with James adding the extras for a 13-0 lead.


That became 16-0 on the stroke of half-time when Perpignan were again penalised for their indiscipline in the maul and James coolly slotted home the 35-metre kick.


Seven minutes after the break, Nalaga was released just inside his own half, brushed aside the challenge of Perpignan’s replacement winger Christophe Manas and sprinted away for a confident try.


That made the score 21-0.


Just after the hour mark, Laharrague got Perpignan on the scoreboard with South African World Cup winner Percy Montgomery finding the target with an easy conversion.


Sunday, at Bordeaux
Stade Francais v Toulouse


Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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