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Clermont's Chouly backed himself to beat Paul O'Connell at final line-out

The Clermont captain picked off Munster’s final throw from touch to secure the win at Thomond Park.

Chouly picks off the final line-out of the game.
Chouly picks off the final line-out of the game.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

IN TRUTH, CLERMONT deserved their four points in Thomond Park but had the final set-piece of the game gone Munster’s way, the French side could have come away with only two.

Anthony Foley’s men probed desperately in the closing minutes, hammering at the superb Clermont defence in vain.

A last-minute line-out five metres from the Clermont provided one concluding opportunity to at least allow Ian Keatley a kick to draw the game.

In such circumstances, most defensive teams would opt to stay on the ground and set themselves more ideally to defend the maul. Instead, Clermont made the ballsy decision to get into the air, with Damien Chouly picking off the ball in front of Paul O’Connell.

I saw that Paul O’Connell had called the two last line-outs to himself,” shrugged Clermont captain Chouly post-match, “so I told the guys to lift me and it worked.”

As simple as that? Was it something Clermont’s analysis had pinpointed in the build-up?

“Just during the game he adjusted his call and I saw it. It was psychology as well.”

Clermont edged the line-out battle in an overall sense, while their maul try was in contrast to Munster’s failings in that area. The scrum swung into Munster’s favour in the second-half as Wayne Barnes pinged the Frenchmen at least three times.

Chould expects Munster to bring even more in that aspect next weekend at Stade Marcel Michelin.

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CJ Stander and Tommy O'Donnell tackle Damien Chouly Chouly gets tackled by Munster's Tommy O'Donnell in Limerick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It is a big part of the game,” said Choly at Thomond Park. “I think we can do better next week.

“It’s great, clearly, [to win] but we know they will be even more hungry next week so we have to be ready for that.”

Head coach Frank Azéma echoed his captain in pointing out that next weekend is no foregone conclusion. That said, he took pride in Clermont’s defensive showing, particularly in those final minutes.

We were in a comfortable position to win the game [at half-time] but the last five minutes showed that it was not finished.

“Certainly next week we have a big game. The defence was good, it was strong. In the last five minutes we were able to control this and and I’m very proud of the players because they give it all in the last five minutes.”

“The first part is finished and the second part starts next week, but it’s a good position to be in. We know in both games, it is important to take maximum points but we are in a good position tonight but when you see the last five minutes and the score, we may be wary next week.”

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Murray Kinsella

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