We went minute-by-minute at Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux for Clermont v Leinster in the Heineken Cup semi-finals.
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Clermont Auvergne 15-19 Leinster
14.42 – Here we go – the second of the Heineken Cup semi-finals and Leinster can set up an All-Ireland date with Ulster at Twickenham.
Here are the teams.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (c), Brad Thorn, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Nathan White, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.
Isaac Boss starts in place of Eoin Reddan and Shane Jennings is in for Kevin McLaughlin – a clear sign that Joe Schmidt is expecting a gruelling encounter.
Clermont: Lee Byrne; Sitiveni Sivivatu, Aurélien Rougerie (c), Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu; Brock James, Morgan Parra; Lionel Faure, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Nathan Hines, Julien Bonnaire, Alexandre Lapandry, Elvis Vermeulen.
Replacements: Ti’i Paulo, Vincent Debaty, Daniel Kotze, Julien Pierre, Julien Bardy, Ludovic Radoslavjevic, Regan King, Jean-Marcel Buttin.
Aurélien Rougerie captains Clermont and has formed a fine partnership with 24-year-old Wesley Fofana in the centre. His family are well known in the Clermont area – mother Christine is the deputy mayor and father Jacques played 10 years for the club.
14.44 – 20 minutes to kick-off so place your votes on who you think will win today’s semi-final. Score predictions are welcome too.
Who will win?
14.48 – Here is what unfolded last time out when the two sides met. Brock James had an awful time of it.
YouTube credit: hcup2010
14.51 – Here is a piece I posted yesterday about the three key battles in today’s match.
14.55 – Joe Schmidt has been catching up with his old buddies at Clermont this week. He has ‘exchanged pleasantries and talked about the weather’ to their coach, Vern Cotter. Schmidt added:
Coming in on the bus you could see that Clermont have massive support today. The predictions are that they will have 28,000 fans here. When they get going and find their voice it will make it a real cauldron out there for us.
Support for Leinster coming from Connacht winger Tiernan O’Halloran.
15.00 – Just two minutes away from kick-off. 82% of the votes in our poll are coming in for a Leinster win. You have more faith in the European champions than the bookies, who rate the result at 50/50.
15.04 – Evan O’Carroll on our Facebook page has predicted a Clermont win 40-37. If he is correct, get ready for a points-fest!
Here we go! Leinster start well but Brad Thorn goes off his feet to give Clermont an early penalty. Kicked to touch and a Clermont line-out. O’Driscoll puts in his first massive tackle on Lee Byrne.
15.10 – Leinster get a penalty as Jamie Cudmore goes offside following a blistering break by Nacewa on the right wing. Wayne Barnes played advantage but eventually calls it back. Sexton sneaks his kick through the posts and it is Clermont 0-3 Leinster.
15.12 – Brock James decides to have a 55-yard pop with a drop goal but is unsuccessful. He has Sivivatu on his shoulder but opted to give it an early hoof. Clermont have the breeze so it could have influenced his decision.
15.17 – Malzieu is off already and Buttin is on with just 13 minutes on the clock. Healy put in a huge tackle on the winger moments earlier. Strauss did well to scramble and steal and Clermont conceded a penalty but Sexton opted to kick for the line. Kearney and Nacewa combine again to trouble the French side and Parra has to hoof clear. Good start here from the blues.
15.21 – James hacks clear and Nacewa takes the feed from the back of the line-out. He is caught in possession and Brad Thorn concedes the penalty after going off his feet clearing out. Brock James from 38 metres out lands it. Important kick for him and it is Clermont 3-3 Leinster.
15.23 – Leinster get lucky when a dangerous Clermont break gets called back for a forward pass. Sivivatu, moments earlier, powered past O’Brien. Broken play for almost two minutes and Clermont look menacing. Scrum Leinster and a chance to clear.
15.26 – Leo Cullen is very, very lucky here. Lionel Faure gives him a jostle and the Leinster captain punches him in return. Faure disgraces himself with a footballer’s dive but Cullen could have easily seen yellow. He gets a talking too instead and the French fans are wailing.
15.31 – Brock James breaks free, straight up the centre and he misses the chance to put Fofana clear. The Clermont fans are incensed again when they are penalised for holding on at the breakdown but Leinster squander a line-our soon after.
15.33 – Sivivatu and Buttin combine excellently but great defence from Sexton and Thorn led to another turn-over as the ball is lost forward. The French side really pressuring Leinster in the past 10 minutes.
15.37 – Jennings gets the ball snatched from him at the breakdown and Nacewa comes in from the side to concede a penalty. Brock James from 35 metres out, on the left. He gets it. Clermont 6-3 Leinster after 31 minutes.
15.39 – Sivivatu gives away a stupid penalty for obstructing Nacewa after Sexton boots an up-and-under far too long. Straight in front of the posts. Clermont 6-6 Leinster.
15.43 – Bit of a harsh penalty given against Leinster as Jennings and Healy are found to be at fault. James, with the ball pointing straight at the posts, lands his kick to make it Clermont 9-6 Leinster.
15.45 – Lee Byrne has left the pitch for good. Clermont win a scrum and the Leinster front row collapses – Healy under a lot of pressure. Clermont 12-6 Leinster after James kicks a penalty on 38 minutes.
15.47 – Jonny Sexton kicks another high ball far too long into the Clermont ’22 and Buttin kicks the ball out to make it HALF-TIME.
15.56 – Leinster started well and moved Clermont around for the first 15 minutes but the French side have come back very well. Leinster are fortunate to still be in touch and let us hope that Joe Schmidt and Greg Feek can do some of their famed half-time tweaks.
Ospreys’ Tom Isaacs is getting tempted on a move to France.
16.03 – We are back underway. No changes for Leinster yet.
16.05 – TRY! Leinster get the advantage but Kearney bursts through the middle. It is three on one and Kearney looks up to find Healy supporting him. He crashes over for a huge try. Sexton follows up and nails the conversion. Clermont 12-13 Leinster.
16.10 – Oh my God! Rob Kearney has nailed a beauty of a drop goal. Settles under a Clermont punt, looks up and blasts a 45 metre drop between the posts. Clermont 12-16 Leinster. Fantastic stuff.
16.13 – Yips? Brock James has a tough kick on the left wing but his kick is horrendous – taking a banana swerve before going 10 yards wide.
16.16 – A simpler kick for James, straight in front, this time and he gets it. Clermont 15-16 Leinster and things are heating up. Eoin Reddan has replaced Boss.
16.21 – Nathan Hines is called ashore. Leo Cullen is continuing but looks to have broken or fractured a finger. D’Arcy was lucky to avoid the sin-bin for a deliberate kick at the ball as it was being taken out of the ruck. Leinster steal a Clermont line-out and drive upfield.
Cian Healy is mobbed by his teammates after his try. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
16.28 – O’Driscoll snipes through before being hauled down 10 metres short. Kearney goes close on the left wing before Clermont go off their feet. Sexton will get a chance to stretch the lead. No problems. Well struck and three more. Clermont 15-19 Leinster.
16.32 – McLaughlin, McFadden and Cronin are on. Unfortunately for Leinster, Cronin’s first line-out through is not straight and Clermont get the scrum. 15 minutes on the clock. O’Driscoll then does brilliantly to steal the ball from Buttin and McFadden’s grubber kick sends the French side way back.
16.33 – The Tullow Tank, Sean O’Brien drives past three defenders but thinks he is Tommy Bowe against France and tries a chip and chase that goes wrong when he knocks on. Leinster have been superb in the second-half but they need at least one more score.
16.38 – Huge penalty conceded by Ti’i Paulo and Sexton gets another kick at goal. O’Driscoll did really well to offload as he was being gripped around the ankles. Oh my, TMO to check if it is over the bar.
16.40 – Sexton’s kick has sailed right over the right-hand post. Crucial decision but it goes against Leinster. What are the odds of footage emerging midweek of the kick going over from a different angle?
16.44 – Great tactical kicking from McFadden and Sexton. Leinster playing right where they want to be – deep in Clermont territory. That makes up for Reddan’s ill-advised drop goal attempt. As Obama would say, “knucklehead”.
16.46 – Julien Bonnaire comes back on after a blood substitution. He beats McLaughlin then Heaslip concedes a penalty after coming in from the side. Just three minutes remain.
16.48 – TMO! Has Fofana clinched it?
16.50 – HUGE! Fofana has knocked it on! It looked like a try from one angle and Fofana was celebrating. On another angle it bounced off his bicep and bounced forward. Phew! Big scrum now. A minute left.
16.53 – Leinster win. Somehow they hold on at the line and O’Brien steals it! Sexton boots out the penalty.
16.56 – Wesley Fofana is gutted. The last five minutes was gripping stuff. In the closing stages Jamie Cudmore, a brut of a man, went one-on-one against Sexton but the Leinster man stood tall and wrapped him up. O’Brien made his most important contribution of the season when he stole that ball at the death. Leinster not celebrating as much as Ulster did yesterday but they are out on the pitch applauding the fans that travelled over. Stay with us for reactions and player ratings. I have a feeling that Rob Kearney is going to get high marks.