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Flawless Laidlaw steers Clermont into next weekend's Top 14 final

Franck Azema’s side will face Toulouse in the decider after proving too strong today for Lyon.

Greig Laidlaw was in fine form for Clermont (file pic).
Greig Laidlaw was in fine form for Clermont (file pic).
Image: Pierre Stevenin

CLERMONT BOOKED THEIR place in next weekend’s French Top 14 final against Toulouse with a 33-13 victory over Lyon today, thanks to a perfect kicking display from Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw.

Laidlaw, only starting at half-back due to an ankle injury to France’s Morgan Parra, slotted 16 points as in-form backs Damian Penaud, Alivereti Raka and George Moala crossed for Clermont in the semi-final played in Bordeaux.

Next Saturday’s season climax at the Stade de France pits Clermont, who have already won the European Challenge Cup this season, against free-flowing Toulouse, who finished first in the regular season standings having collected a record amount of points.

“We have to correct quite a few things and control a few things better than we did today because we’re going to face a top-of-the table side,” Clermont head coach Franck Azema told broadcaster Canal+.

“We’ve already turned our attention to recovering from the game, having one day less than Toulouse, and how we can maximise our week to stay fresh for next Saturday,” he added.

Lyon, making their second appearance in the semi-finals in as many years, opened the scoring after dominating the first 10 minutes. They won possession from a risky attacking chip-kick by Clermont’s Camille Lopez and Australian Liam Gill crashed over from short-range. Fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski missed the conversion.

Clermont responded five minutes later with Laidlaw’s first penalty to bring the score to 5-3. Wisniewski re-established his side’s five-point advantage on 20 minutes with a penalty of his own.

Clermont took the lead for the first time as Laidlaw added two penalty goals. Then winger Penaud crossed in the corner after a sublime first-phase move for a 16-8 lead at the break.

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Lyon also started the second half well but were down to 14 men after 50 minutes. Referee Romain Poite showed prop Clement Ric a yellow card by after persistent misdemeanours by the Lyon pack at scrum-time.

It turned from bad to worse for the side who were promoted to the top-tier less than three years ago on 55 minutes. Clermont showed their quality from set-piece once again and winger Raka, who is expected to feature for his adopted France at this year’s World Cup, scored his side’s second try. Laidlaw’s conversion increased the lead to 23-8 with 25 minutes to play.

Lyon were given a late lifeline as stocky number eight Deon Fourie scored after a dominant rolling maul with 10 minutes to play.

But Laidlaw kicked his fourth penalty with five minutes to play and New Zealand centre Moala crossed late on to ensure Clermont will have a chance to win a second French title in three seasons in Paris next weekend. 

© – AFP, 2019

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