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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 13 December, 2019
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Clermont complete all-French Challenge Cup final after La Rochelle edge past Sale Sharks

Harlequins fell to Clermont this evening after La Rochelle progressed past Sale Sharks earlier on Saturday.

Thomas Berjon, Maxime Lafage and Alexi Bales celebrate after the game.
Thomas Berjon, Maxime Lafage and Alexi Bales celebrate after the game.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated 10.20pm

CLERMONT ENSURED AN all-French Challenge Cup final will unfold in Newcastle next month as they and La Rochelle advanced beyond English opposition in today’s semi-finals.

La Rochelle were first to take their place in the 10 May final, though they had to endure a nervy finale in Stade Marcel Deflandre before seeing off AJ MacGinty’s Sale Sharks 24-20.

Sale made their mark early with a 13th-minute penalty try leading to a yellow card for Victor Vito. But the hosts with back with an automatic seven-pointer of their own 10 minutes later, this time it was Denny Solomona who was sent to the bin for his try-preventing high tackle offence.

La Rochelle made the most of the momentum and the extra man as Kini Murimurivalu crossed for the game’s third try.

Damian Penaud celebrates at the final whistle with Arthur Iturria Damian Penaud celebrates at the final whistle after Clermont overcame Harlequins this evening. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Breathing space was tough to come by for out-half Ihaia West, though, and Tom Curry’s charge down delivered a try for Chris Ashton to level the contest at 17-17 at the half-time interval.

Gregory Aldritt grounded the only try of the second half and West delivered a terrific 50th-minute conversion to give Jono Gibbes’ side a seven-point lead, but there was no shortage of drama as MacGinty narrowed the gap to four points for a tense endgame.

Meanwhile later on Saturday evening, tries each from Fritz Lee and Damian Penaud saw Clermont head into the interval 26-8 ahead against Harlequins.

Chris Robshaw, James Lang, Mike Brown and Alex Dombrandt all touched down for Quins, however the French outfit held on during a tight contest to book their place in this year’s final at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

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