©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

As it happened: Leinster v Clermont Auvergne, Heineken Cup

It was win or bust for the reigning champions and we were in the Aviva Stadium to watch every big hit.

WE’RE LIVE AND shivering from that big stadium on Lansdowne Road as Clermont try and knock their bête noire Leinster out of the Heineken Cup.

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Leinster 21 – 28 Clermont

Afternoon folks, you’re very welcome to a bright and breezy Aviva Stadium where the best two teams in European rugby are just half an hour from kick-off.

The teams, so far, are as they were named yesterday, but Clermont have a doubt over Brock James. So don’t be surprised if David Skrela starts.

Leinster: I Madigan; F McFadden, G D’Arcy, A Goodman, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (c), D Browne; S O’Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Bent, D Toner, K McLaughlin, I Boss, A Conway, D Kearney.

Clermont: L Byrne; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (c), W Fofana, N Nalaga; B James, M Parra; R Chaume, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili, J Cudmore, N Hines, J Bonnaire, J Bardy, D Chouly.

Replacements: T Paulo, V Debaty, D Kotze, L Jacquet, A Lapandry, L Radosavljevic, D Skrela, R King.

This is round six of what’s becoming a storied rivalry. Here’s a quick refresher on how last week went.

And below you’ll find a link to games with actual real-life tires in them.

That should whet the appetite while I make my way up to my seat in the stand.

Right we’ve arrived in the press area just in time to watch a massive Christmas Pudding form the centre-piece a a nutcracker dance routine…. followed by Gangnam Style as I believe is the tradition.

The TV monitors are showing no change in the Clermont side, so we’ll keep a close eye on Mr. James in the opening minutes. He just doesn’t like it in Dublin does he?

Here come the visitors.

Jonathan Sexton is the only blue shirt on the field, but is greeted by a raucous home crowd and is quickly followed by Van der Merwe and the boys.


James gets us underway and kicks deep to Leinster’s 22. We’ve rarely seen these sides do anything else against eachother. They exchange kicks and a Lee Byrne high ball is spilled by Madigan. Scrum white 35 metres from the Leinster line.

Both Nacewa and Sivivatu have had a chance to open their stride, but both have been across, rather than through, the defensive line. After the All Black turned the ball over, Reddan sniped and Sexton accelerated into space.

He almost avoided the first up tackle, but was ankle tapped and his offload was spilled by the man in support. Incredible atmosphere here and it’s not far off a full house.

PENALTY: Leinster 0 – 3 Clermont (Parra ’8)

Last week almost every penalty resulted in a kick at goal and we’ve started in similar fashion here. Van der Merwe pinged for not rolling away and the French scrum-half makes no mistake from 30 metres.

A sloppy line-out on halfway sends the home side retreating backwards and Clermont look to have turned over, but Wayne Barnes offers the Blues a way out, pinging Clermont for not rolling away.

Strauss’ next line-out works like a charm, but he’s hit hard a few phases later and Leinster have to attack with 14.

With that in mind Sexton tries to grubber through, but it’s hit squarely into the defenders and Leinster retreat again. Sexton gets the ball back, but again is wayward with the kick, it flies a good five metres long of the touchline.

Strauss can’t continue. He is helped off the field and replaced by Sean Cronin.

Advantage Clermont. What was that about French teams on the road?

The upper hand in the scrum, however, remains with Mike Ross and Leinster.

A free kick goes their way in their own half and Reddan quick-taps, allowing Madigan drill the ball back into French territory,

Clermont work their way back to halfway where Julien Bonnaire is pinged on half way for holding on. It’s out of JS’s range, so he puts it in the Clermont 22 where Cronin is on target with his first dart.

This is knock-out rugby and this crowd know it. A primal roar urges on every ball carry, never more-so when it’s Sean O’Brien. He forces a straightforward opportunity for Sexton to level the game.

PENALTY: Leinster 3 -3 Clermont Sexton ’18)

Jamie Heaslip is in from the side after a Jennings carry and Clermont are instantly back in front from the restart.

PENALTY: Leinster 3 – 6 Leinster ( Parra ’19)

that’s why Sexton is such a valuable physical presence to have at number 10. Bardy targets him in midfield, but Sexton gets arms around the ball and holds him up. With the cavalary arriving the choke tackle is in full effect and Leinster have a scrum from which they win a penalty for offside.

From 45 metres, Sexton shuns the posts against and brings play 10 metres from the try-line.

PENALTY: Leinster 6 – 6 Clermon (Sexton ’25)

We’re all square again after the home side prod and probe from that line-out. But despite the anticipation of the crowd, they make little ground through the defensive line.

With not-rolling-away advantage hanging over from the second phase, they attack the line from right to left, but the move breaks down as Nacewa tries a pop pass for Goodman which goes out of play.

Leinster keep the momentum going from this restart and win a penalty. Now, they look intent on spinning the ball wide, but they still can’t break the white line.

Clermont the ball over at the breakdown and are suddenly looking very threatening..

Worrying scenes for the home support as James chips through into the 22 and the clearance can only find them coming back on the front foot.

They produce some big carries, especially from Zirakashvili, to hammer at the try-line.  Leinster hold on, but only because they slowed the ball.

PENALTY: Leinster 6 – 9 Clermont (Parra ’30)

TRY: Leinster 6 – 16 Clermont (Fofana ’35)

It’s that man Fofana again, he didn’t drop the finish this time. After a super break from Sivivatu on the left, he offloaded to Nalaga who was somehow held up just hsort of the line.

Not to worry. A phase later Parra gave a flat ball for the centre to run onto and he stepped and jinked before planting the ball over the line.

Parra hits the conversion too.

Leinster are a little shell-shocked out there. But they win a penalty in their own half after an indiscretion from Bonnaire and the Blues attack from the line-out.

Leinster are just not winning the collisions on the gain line. They can not find a way through and it’s Clermont who arrive in numbers and force a turnover.

The men from the Massif Central have no such trouble making yards and Sivivatu makes another break, but the move ends in a knock-on and half time.

HALF TIME: Leinster 6 – 16 Clermont

The champions with it all to do in the second half. This Clermont side look every inch a side with revenge on their mind. Absolutely ferocious stuff.

Welcome to the Jungle is blaring out here in leafy D4, just to remind us that the second half is under way.

Joe Schmidt has made one change, that troublesome tighthead side lock position where Devin Toner has come in for Damien Browne who has been guilty at the breakdown more than once.

Not a good start.

Mike Ross slips his bind and then slips to the turf right in front of Wayne Barnes.

It’s a tough kick for Parra; 40 metres from goal near the right touchline…

PENALTY: Leinster 6 – 19 Clermont (Parra ’43)

Nailed it.

The crowd ask Leinster to respond like champions and they are. From the restart they force a turnover and ravenously pound toward the line, but the men in white happily slow the ball and take the penalty as the blues need seven to get back in this game.

PENALTY: Leinster 9 – 19 Clermont (Sexton ’46)

I felt Leinster would win this game and deny their rivals a point. At this stage, Clermont have one point guaranteed.

Here comes crowd favourite Cian Healy just in time for a scrum on half way after James’ restart goes straight out.

Healy has an instant impact as he forced a penalty with Zirakashvili, slipping his bind.

Leo Cullen points to the posts. Sexton from the half way mark…

…drops it short and wide.

SIN BIN: Sean O’Brien

Clermont were on the way through another gap after a quick tap from Parra and break from Fofana.

The centres offload to Sivivatu didn’t arrive to the winger until after O’Brien took him out. To add to the hosts’ woe..

PENALTY: Leinster 9 – 22 Clermont (Parra ’51)

Leinster fans will find this game excruciating, but it really is a marvellous display from Auvergne. La Marseillaise is ringing out from the stand and the white shirts have a strangle hold on this game.

Against 14 men, Clermont win another penalty on the right and they sense blood in the water. James puts the ball into touch for a line-out.

In the way we’ve become so accustomed to watching the France national team streaming forward, Clermont  scythe their way toward the line. Somehow, Leinster hold them up over the line. Five metre scrum.

This danger won’t go away.

We’re still locked in scrum warfare.

Hold on, they’ve let Leinster off the hook. It seemed a matter of time before they forced some sort of try, but Rougerie asks for a penalty.

It could be a turning point, because Parra’s kick at goal hit the post.

Leinster survive that battle, can they win the next one?

Leinster don’t manage to clear and Clermont win a scrum on the 22. They spin wide and again cut a route through to the five metre line. Leinster scramble some cover forcing the white attack across to the left where Fofana is doing his thing, dancing through tackles and reaching for the line.


It was actually Nalaga carrying the ball, Fofana was next to him. The TMO comes back negative, but Leinster can’t escape. Scrum v and another penalty to the hosts with Mike Ross getting a stern talking to.

He is replaced by Michael Bent.

PENALTY: Leinster 9 – 25 Clermont (Parra ’62)
Very pragmatic approach from the visitors. No interest in twisting the knife, they prefer death by a thousand cuts. The silence for the kicker is out the window, but Parra’s accuracy is back.

Here come Leinster!

A penalty on the 22 is quick tapped and the blues start throwing caution to the wind. Sexton gets his favourite loop into action and spins wide to Goodman, but everywhere they turn there are white shirts in abundance…. and they’re not shy in slowing the ball.

Barnes brings us back for a penalty near the posts, but three is no good now. Five metre line out.

TRY: Leinster 14 – 25 Clermont (Jennings ’66)

A good old-fashioned throw to the front of the line-out and Leinster spin the wheels of the maul, Jennings spins off and plants the score at the second time of asking.

Sexton adds the extras

Leinster 16 – 25 Clermont

13 minutes to go.

The score was Jennings’ last act, he is replaced by Jordi Murphy and Isaac Boss is also on for Reddan.

Nine points is the gap, but the crowd are apoplectic as another penalty goes to the French after the restart.

PENALTY: Leinster 16 – 28 Clermont

Nerves of steel has young Parra.

As it did in France, the line-out has killed off the last bit of blue momentum. Cronin’s throw is stolen and Clermont have the ball.

Rougerie showed brilliant skill to take a bouncing ball on the run and off-load. They again advanced to the 22, but Parra opted to add another three with a drop goal and caught it all wrong. If he wasn’t so damn good, his team mates would be furious.

The Leinster fans in the stand beside me have seen enough, they’re off. I guess it’s a case of ‘what have you done for us lately?’

Personally, I think a crowd should stay to thank the side for an amazing run of Heineken Cup form.

48, 964 is the attendance. Many of them not here to see a yellow card for Bardy.

Leinster are back in the Clermont red zone, can they salvage anything from this game?


TRY: Leinster 21 – 28 Clermont (McFadden ’79)

Wow. A decent finish to a terrific game of rugby.

The losing bonus points, however, is unlikely to be enough for Leinster. The back-to-back champions look to be on the way out of this year’s competition.

Leinster looked to be heading for nil points after Clermont escaped to the blue 22. But a penalty comes and Leinster seek to run 80 metres.

On the right Sexton makes a break, he fixes a defender and delays the pass just long enough to give his winger a run to the line.

McFadden’s run to the posts is closed off so he has to ground on the wing and Sexton mis kicks the conversion.

FULL TIME: Leinster 21 – 28 Clermont

Stay tuned to for all the reaction from here on Lansdowne Road as well as news of Ulster in Ravenhill.

Knockout phase: 3 key battles Leinster must win to stay in the Heineken Cup

VIDEO: Previously on the epic drama that is Clermont v Leinster

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