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Dublin: 1 °C Sunday 19 January, 2020
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Afternoon and welcome along to our coverage of Leinster’s Champions Cup semi-final clash with Clermont.

Kick-off is not until 3pm, so you still have time to get yourself settled in front of a Sky Sports feed.

In the mean-time, get your teeth into our big match preview here and see if you can pick a winner.

As you can see from some of the pictures coming in from Stade Gerland, the weather and bonhomie is warm as the most cordial fan relationship is reunited.

A view of Stade de Gerland, Lyon

Clermont fans

Clermont fans Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Here are our line-ups for today’s clash then. Leinster’s big calls have come on the wing and flank where Dan Leavy and Fergus McFadden get the nod.

Clermont:

15. Scott Spedding
14. David Strettle
13. Aurelien Rougerie
12. Remi Lamerat
11. Nick Abendanon
10. Camille Lopez
9. Morgan Parra

1. Raphael Chaume
2. Benjamin Kayser
3. Davit Zirakashvili
4. Arthur Iturria
5. Sébastien Vahaamahina
6. Damien Chouly (captain)
7. Peceli Yato
8. Fritz Lee

Replacements:

16. John Ulugia
17. Etienne Falgoux
18. Aaron Jarvis
19. Paul Jedrasiak
20. Alexandre Lapandry
21. Ludovic Radosavljevic
22. Patricio Fernandez
23. Damien Penaud

Leinster:

15. Joey Carbery
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Isa Nacewa (captain)
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath

1. Jack McGrath
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Hayden Triggs
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan

Replacements:

16. Seán Cronin
17. Peter Dooley
18. Michael Bent
19. Ross Molony
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Zane Kirchner

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].

It’s loud in Stade de Gerland, Shane Horgan is on Sky Sports roaring out the last of his analysis.

A tough atmosphere to perform in, but the conditions give absolutely no excuse. This should be a cracker of a contest.

KICK-OFF: Sexton gets proceedings under way. Parra bounces onto a loose ball, but Owens penalises the chasing yellow shirts for the challenge before he hit the deck.

4Mins

It’s been a scrappy start, with Clermont slightly shaky, but they pounce on a loose Ringrose chip ahead and go wide to Strettle.

5Mins

TRY! Clermont 5 Leinster 0 (Yato ’5)

5Mins

Strettle has contributed two or three electric moments already, all in that last set of phases as Clermont mounted their first real attack.

The third time the English wing got possession, he chipped ahead from the right touchline and Yato was first to the loose pill and grounded.

Morgan Parra added a tough conversion to make it a superb start from the hosts.

Clermont 7 Leinster 0

Flag 9Mins

YELLOW CARD: Isa Nacewa is off to the sin-bin for a pull back on Scott Spedding after the fullback blazed on past him.

Parra on the money with another kick at the posts.

PENALTY! Clermont 10 Leinster 0 ( Parra ’9)

13Mins

No easy way back for Leo Cullen’s men now. That’s a horrific start. And to compound matters, the line-out is malfunctioning and a long clearance bounces in front of Joey Carbery and deceives him as it bobbles to touch.

16Mins

On top of some porous defence on the left wing (this time with Nacewa absent), Leinster’s line-out has been a grave disappointment so far with three of Richardt Strauss’ four throws ending up in enemy hands.

The hosts fling it wide immediately again and this time Strettle is close enough to take on the finish himself and he cuts in and out before grounding.

Parra’s conversion mercifully doesn’t get in around the near post.

19Mins

Isa Nacewa is back from his sin-bin stint. Leinster need to slow this game down and fast to get any sort of foot-hold.

23Mins

Just as the visitors find some sort of rhythm, attacking off turnover ball from their 22 to halfway, Clermont force a penalty.

They breakdown personnel are just not doing enough for Leinster. Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip are sorely missed at times like this.

25Mins

Terrific counter-attack from Leinster on turnover ball in their own 22. They go wide immediately with Henshaw passing under pressure to get bodies flooding towards halfway.

Unfortunately, that man David Strettle is on hand to make a big difference again, smashing into a tackle and forcing a knock-on.

27Mins

Clermont are tossing all kinds of tricks from the bag now. Rougerie attempts an offload. It doesn’t go to hand, but never mind, there’s a helpful hand there to supply Lopez and he chips cross-field to Strettle who bats it back in-field.

31Mins

Nothing is going poor Richardt Strauss’ way out there. Sexton starts a pacy back-line move and Carbery’s delay on the pass creates more space, but the hooker just can’t clamp two hands on the ball out wide.

30 minutes gone. Clermont will give Leinster a chance here, but there is still no sign of it coming.

33Mins

From Leinster’s point of view, Fergus McFadden’s kick out on the full just now will hopefully be the low point before their fortunes improve.

The wing was selected for this encounter ahead of the in-form Adam Byrne. He went back to his 22 to collect a chip ahead, turned, exited and sliced a kick well towards the stand.

36Mins

Oh no. On the right flank Spedding is first to a grubber ahead that looked  be on its way out.

The fullback lets Leinster off the hook though, by stooping to try and lift the pill rather than hacking ahead and chasing it to the line.

38Mins

Hmm. Parra has a chance to kick his side 18 points clear at the break from under 40 metres, but another poor strike keeps the score as is.

41Mins

Promising signs from Leinster then as they make gains through the middle with Leavy and Ringrose.

Up to the 22 with Nacewa. Henshaw offloads from a prone position on the turf. Important minutes here… and the penalty comes as Clermont go off feet at breakdown.

40Mins

HALF-TIME: Clermont 15 Leinster 3

 

A horrible start for Leinster and serious problems at set-piece, breakdown and fringe defending. But it could have been worse than a 12-point deficit at the break.

Anyone fancy a Johnny Sexton-inspired comeback?

42Mins

The second half gets going with a serious up-turn in the Leinster line-out’s form. A set move sees Conan charge through a gap and suddenly the visitors are in the 22.

44Mins

Nacewa raids up the left and Leinster are set to attack in the 22. Clermont happy to concede a penalty and Henshaw can’t force anything mroe on the advantage.

PENALTY! Clermont 15 Leinster 6 (Sexton ’43)

45Mins

It’s so strange, but the atmosphere in Lyon has already been dulled by that Leinster score and a short set of phases.

Clermont can’t help but feel that there is a comeback / choke possible here.

48Mins

Pressure mounts and mounts from Leinster thanks to Rhys Ruddock and Robbie Henshaw. Clermont praying to concede penalties, but Leinster have an overlap. Unfortunately the pill is passed forward as they look wide.

Sexton goes for the posts to make this a one-score game.

50Mins

PENALTY! Clermont 15 Leinster 9 (Sexton ’49)

50Mins

Sean Cronin is in the game and looking like a man who feels he ought to have started. He kicks long and asks the Leinster D to do its job.

51Mins

Cronin’s kick was ill-judged as Clermont roar back for their best chance in what feels like an age – it’s now over 35 minutes since they scored. But Luke McGrath gets a hit in to stem the flow.

Flag 54Mins

A fifth penalty of the half comes Leinster’s way!

Jack McGrath spins through a tackle and offloads, but the move comes to a shuddering stop a phase later.

Sexton clicks his side a little closer!

PENALTY! Clermont 15 Leinster 12 (Sexton ’54)

How is that bottle, Clermont?

55Mins

We’re with the TMO, but it looks like Dan Leavy has finished off a stunning Leinster move…

Flag 55Mins

Wow! The TMO has called Leinster 60 metres back.

The initial break was from Fergus McFadden, bursting the line, feeding Nacewa and then Henshaw to carry to within inches of the try-line. From there Leavy picked and fell over. But then the cruel twist.

It was Leavy who made the move possible back on his own 10-metre line, holding Rougerie at the back of the ruck and thus making the hole for McFadden.

Flag

That is a massive swing. A 10-pointer.

Leinster could have forced their way into a 16 – 19 lead, but instead the penalty goes Clermont’s way and Parra nails it.

PENALTY! Clermont 18 Leinster 12 (Parra ’55)

59Mins

Is that the bounce of the ball going back Clermont’s way? Isa Nacewa frustrated now, but he’s fortunate not to get a card (a second one) after he is penalised for tackling a man in the air.

Still a long way to go in this match, but the last 10 minutes will be hotly debated.

Flag 65Mins

Drop-goal! Clermont 21 Leinster 12 (Lopez ’64)

Clermont are finally back on the boil after. They can’t create a clear opening, but why bother when your out-half strikes drop-goals as beautifully as Camille.

The 10 lofts it between the posts from 35 metres on the angle.

66Mins

Morgan Parra is enjoying himself out there again. He’s playing at his own pace, gliding from ruck to ruck directing traffic.

Flag 67Mins

TRY! Clermont 21 Leinster 19 (Ringrose ’67)

Sensational from the young center. Game on again!

68Mins

Simply sensational from Garry Ringrose. He makes a half break in midfield, throws an outrageous dummy, slips a tackle and then just has to pin his ears back for 50 metres.

69Mins

There was more than a hint of that alright.

73Mins

The game ebbs slightly away from Leinster again as Owens signals another breakdown penalty.

Clermont want that full-time whistle to come sooner rather than later.

74Mins

Offside against Leinster bang on halfway and Scott Spedding is loading that siege cannon of his.

74Mins

The sight was a little off from the powerful fullback, but the ball is where Clermont want it.

75Mins

DROP-GOAL! Clermont 27 Leinster 19 (Lopez ’75)

75Mins

Credit Leinster, they’ve turned this into a bit of an epic and forced Clermont to dig deep. Another sumptuous strike from Lopez comes after Sexton tried a short restart in his 22.

78Mins

PENALTY! Clermont 27 Leinster 22 (Sexton ’78)

79Mins

Penaud with a marvelous take off the restart and Clermont can see this one out in Leinster’s 22.

Leinster left to rue a shocking start, but credit them for making a game of that. Clermont ride their luck all the way into the final.

Saracens await, licking their lips.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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