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Leinster heading to Lyon for European semi-final clash with Clermont

The Top 14 side overcame Toulon in their quarter-final today.

Clermont 29

Toulon 9

LEO CULLEN’S LEINSTER will travel to Lyon on the weekend of 22/23 April for their Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont, after the French side battled to a win against Top 14 rivals Toulon in their quarter-final.

pjimage (3) Leinster will meet old rivals Clermont in the semi-finals.

While the date and kick-off time will officially confirmed in the next 24 hours, Leinster look likely to be playing at Stade de Gerland on Sunday 23 April.

Clermont were the better side in their arm wrestle with Toulon at Stade Marcel Michelin today, with Noa Nakaitaci’s second-half try proving crucial in separating the sides in wet weather conditions.

Though the semi-final was largely a forgettable one, Clermont will be thrilled to have come through what was a tense test for the opening three quarters in front of a passionate crowd in Clermont-Ferrand.

Franck Azéma’s men can now look forward to home country advantage in the semi-finals as they renew their rivalry with Clermont.

Leinster squeezed past the French side in the 2011 Heineken Cup quarter-finals, before beating them in Bordeaux in a memorable semi-final meeting in 2012. In the 2012/13 season, Clermont beat Leinster home and away in the pool stages of the European competition.

With Munster set to meet Saracens in the other semi-final on 22/23 April, the dream of an all-Irish Champions Cup final remains alive, but both provinces face hugely demanding ties in the last four.

Clermont’s quarter-final against Toulon today was tied at 6-6 at the interval, with the rain having proved unhelpful when the Top 14 sides looked to build attacking pressure.

Parra slotted two of his three shots at goal, Halfpenny managed two of his four, while Camille Lopez missed with a drop goal attempt just before the break.

The arm wrestle continued in the third quarter as Parra and Halfpenny exchanged penalties, but Clermont finally broke the Toulon resistance with an excellent try in the 62nd minute.

Noa Nakaitaci scores a try Nakaitaci dots down a crucial try for Clermont. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jono Gibbes’ forward pack hammered at the Toulon line after a surge from centre Remi Lamerat, before a clever link pass from Fritz Lee allowed out-half Lopez to free Noa Nakaitaci in the right corner.

The France wing rounded around towards the posts to allow Parra to add the conversion, meaning a 16-9 lead for the home side.

The Clermont scrum-half missed with his next shot at goal, a penalty, although it almost allowed Nakaitaci to gather in to the right of the posts. Toulon survived.

Lopez nailed his second drop goal attempt in the 72nd minute to extend the Clermont lead, and Parra sealed the deal with another penalty in the closing minutes of the game and then European debutant Damian Penaud put gloss on the scoreline with a late converted try.

Clermont scorers:

Tries: Noa Nakaitaci. Damian Penaud

Conversions: Morgan Parra [2 from 2]

Penalties: Morgan Parra [4 from 6]

Drop goal: Camille Lopez

Toulon scorers:

Penalties: Leigh Halfpenny [3 from 5]

ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Scott Spedding; Noa Nakaitaci, Aurélien Rougerie, Remi Lamerat, Nick Abendanon; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Raphael Chaume, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili; Arthur Iturria, Sébastien Vahaamahina; Damien Chouly, Peceli Yato, Fritz Lee.

Replacements: John Ulugia, Etienne Falgoux, Aaron Jarvis, Flip Van Der Merwe, Judicaël Cancoriet, Ludovic Radosavljevic , Pato Fernandez, Damien Penaud.

RC TOULON: Leigh Halfpenny; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma’a Nonu, Bryan Habana; Francois Trinh-Duc, Eric Escande; Laurent Delboulbès, Guilhem Guirado, Levan Chilachava; Juandre Kruger, Romain Taofifenua; Juan Smith, Liam Gill, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Anthony Etrillard, Florian Fresia, Marcel Van Der Merwe, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Anthony Belleau, Josua Tuisova, Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Jocelina Suta.

Referee: Wayne Barnes [RFU].

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Murray Kinsella

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