Clermont beat Saracens to reach European final

Clermont gained revenge for last year’s European exit by beating Saracens 13-9 in the European Rugby Champions Cup Semi-final at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard to book a place in the final.

Last year Saracens met Clermont in the Semi-final at Twickenham and won the contest 46-6 and booked a place in the final but this year Clermont will contest the final against the winner of Sunday’s Toulon v Leinster match.

Australian Brock James was the architect of Clermont’s victory, sweet revenge for the 46-6 thumping Saracens handed the Top 14 club at the same stage of the competition last season.

James booted two penalties and also converted Wesley Fofana’s second-half try, set up by the fly-half’s deft chip.

The game was for long periods a midfield arm wrestle between two very efficient defensive sides that gave little away, and Saracens could only respond with a penalty and drop-goal from Charlie Hodgson and an Owen Farrell penalty.

After James saw an early effort drift wide, Hodgson opened the scoring after 14 minutes with a well-taken drop-goal.

Napolioni Nalaga had a try disallowed immediately after, Chris Ashton bundling Clermont’s Fijian try-scoring machine into touch just before he could ground the ball.

The England international will consider himself lucky that Irish referee George Clancy neither brandished a yellow card nor awarded a penalty try after his blatant no-arms tackle.

James drew Clermont level with a 27th-minute penalty to the delight of a swathe of yellow at the sell-out 41,000-capacity Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, the ground of Ligue 1 football club Saint-Etienne.

Hodgson sent a first penalty effort wide but nailed his second to leave Saracens 6-3 up at half-time.

Clermont, however, set their fans’ flags flying straight into the second half.

France No.8 Damien Chouly’s barn-storming charge set up quick ruck ball that was spun wide to James whose chip bounced perfectly for Fofana to gather and touch down, James kicking the conversion.

Saracens, who lost to Toulon in the 2014 final, stuck gamely to their task and ever-willing full-back Alex Goode raked a long kick into the corner.

Nick Abendanon fed Nalaga inside him but a great follow-up tackle by Richard Wigglesworth saw the Fijian spill the ball just metres from his line.

Clermont, with prop Vincent Debaty under enormous pressure, were penalised in the resulting scrum, and Farrell made it a one-point game with a successful kick.

However, James made no mistake with his second penalty, all but closing out the game and setting up what promises to be an enticing final.

Final Score Clermont 13 (3) Saracens 9 (6)

Scorers

Clermont
Tries – Fofana
Pen – James 2
Con – James
Drop –

Saracens
Tries –
Pen – Hodgson, Farrell
Con –
Drop – Hodgson

Match Officials
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland),
Assistant ref: Leighton Hodges (Wales),
Assistant ref: Dudley Phillips (Ireland),
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland),

ASM Clermont Auvergne

Nick Abendanon; Noa Nakaitaci, Jonathan Davies, Wesley Fofana, Naipolioni Nalaga; Brock James, Ludovic Radoslavjevic ; Vincent Debaty, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Julien Bonnaire, Julien Bardy, Damien Chouly (c)

Replacements: John Ulugia, Raphael Chaume, Clement Ric, Julien Pierre, Alexandre Lapandry, Morgan Parra, Camille Lopez, Aurelien Rougerie

Saracens

Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (c), Chris Wyles; Charlie Hodgson, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Petrus du Plessis, George Kruis, Jim Hamilton, Maro Itoje, Jacques Burger, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Rhys Gill, James Johnston, Kelly Brown, Jackson Wray, Neil de Kock, Owen Farrell, David Strettle

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