Porical boots Stade into Challenge Cup final

Stade Francais kept alive their hopes of playing in next year’s European Cup as full-back Jerome Porical kicked the winning penalty in their 25-22 Challenge Cup semi-final victory at Perpignan on Friday.

Porical struck three minutes from time with a penalty that hit both post and bar before sneaking over.

With six penalties, a conversion and the decisive pass in South African lock Gerhard Mostert’s try at the beginning of the second period, Porical was the man-of-the-match with a personal haul of 20 points.

It was a remarkable turnaround in a match that seemed Perpignan’s for the taking in a white-hot atmosphere at their Aime-Giral ground.

Early tries for hooker Guilhem Guirado and Wales fly-half James Hook, who also kicked four penalties in a 17-point personal haul, seemed to put the Catalans in the driving seat.

But, crucially, Hook missed both conversions from wide out on the left flank, allowing Porical to keep the Parisians in touch at the break, trailing only 13-9.

When the full-back converted Mostert’s try five minutes into the second period, Stade Francais pulled level at 16-16.

Twice more he had to kick the visitors level after a Hook penalty before Porical knocked over the dramatic, late winning score.

With both sides out of contention for a top six finish in the French league, this clash took on vital importance as the Challenge Cup winners qualify for the European Cup next year.

Stade will face either reigning European champions Leinster or Challenge Cup holders Biarritz in the May 17 final in Dublin.

Perpignan, who are seventh in the Top 14, could still play in the European Cup next year, as long as either Clermont or Toulon win that competition this year and Leinster triumph in the Challenge Cup.

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