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The best team in Europe stood between Munster and a Heineken Cup final.

We went minute-by-minute to find out if Munster could upset the odds and give the finals weekend a second Irish representative.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail Sean@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Clermont 16 – 10 Munster

Good afternoon folks and welcome along to our Heineken Cup semi-final coverage.

Munster are on a mission in Montpellier. European away trips don’t come much tougher than Clermont but maybe, just maybe, taking Vern Cotter’s men down the road a bit could unsettle them enough for Munster to capitalise.

Paul O’Connell is fit enough to start, and he’ll be in the thick of things when we kick off in just over 10 minutes time.

The atmosphere has been cranked up, the teams are about to emerge from the dressing room. Here are the men we’ll be watching today.

Clermont: Lee Byrne; Sitiveni Sivivatu, Regan King, Wesley Fofana, Napolioni Nalaga; Brock James, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, David Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Nathan Hines, Julien Bonnaire (capt), Julien Bardy, Damien Chouly.

Replacements: Ti’i Paulo, Vincent Debaty, Clément Ric, Julien Pierre, Alexandre Lapandry, Ludovic Radosavljevic, Jean-Marcel Buttin, Seru Nakaitaci/ David Skrela.

Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Cathal Sheridan, Ian Keatley, Denis Hurley.

KICK OFF: We’re underway in Montpellier as James kicks into the Munster 22.

Two more kicks are exchanged before ROG brings play up to the Munster 10 metre line. Brace yourselves, Europe.

A brilliant start for Munster. They maul Clermont in midfield and with O’Connell leading the charge, Nigel Owens whistles a penalty to the visitors as the maul is dragged down.

PENALTY: Clermont 0 – 3 Munster (O’Gara ’5)

From 40 metres on the left side, no mistake from the man in his 10th semi-final.

Clermont respond just how you’d expect them to. Battering the Munster line.

Keith Earls shoots up and saves a try with a big hit on Lee Byrne, but the home side persist and after going right, create a four-man overlap on the left. Nalaga shuns the props outside and dives under the posts.

TRY! Clermont 7 – 3 Munster (Nalaga ’10)

Ominous stuff from Clermont, they just seem to be settling into a rhythm and Peter O’Mahony is penalised for going off his feet.

From over 40 metres in a central position Morgan Parra sweeps Clermont into a seven-point lead.

PENALTY: Clermont 10 – 3 Munster (Parra ’14)

Tommy O’Donnell makes a powerful carry into the opposition half. But after Hines takes down Kilcoyne, Botha gets his clear-out all wrong and Clermont use the penalty to move back to Munster’s 10-metre line.

The line-out sets Clermont up for a maul. With Chouly wrestling O’Connell out of the way, Clermont progress to within 15-metres of the try-line where Munster add another offence to the penalty count.

PENALTY: Clermont 13 – 3 Munster (Parra ’18)

Despite Mike Sherry delivering the ball on a platter with a poor kick, Munster enjoy some time in possession after a Simon Zebo half break.

With the white shirts rock solid in defence, Munster are being made to look very static. The visitors manage to win a breakdown penalty and they’re in the Clermont 22.

A clever switched kick from James to the left of Munster’s 22 has Sivivatu chasing behind Peter O’Mahony. Clearly Clermont haven’t seen him play wing in the AIL.

Ooh, Jamie Cudmore is fortunate. The touch judge tattled on him to Nigel, saying he had come in from the side with ‘unnecessary use of the boot’. A double offence like that would usually warrant more than a talking to.

Chouly is all over the place (in a good way). Now he’s on patrol as Zebo tries to slip out of two Clermont tacklers to dump the Lions wing into touch.

Another kick from James. This time from 30 metres in behind Earls. The Limerick man maages to beat Nalaga to the bounce. But, sadly, it looks like a matter of time before Clermont close this out.

A massive stop from Munster here just as Clermont looked to pummel their way over the line before half time. A penalty 10 metres from their line relieves the pressure.

Tommy O’Donnell is a force of nature at the minute. When he learns to reign all that talent in he’ll be a serious Heineken Cup player. A minute ago, he was guilty (just) of taking Byrne out in the air after a smart box-kick from Murray. Then, from a Munster line-out he powered through the defensive line, but was penalised after receiving the first tackle.

Credit him and his side, refusing to take defeat on the chin here.

Munster ended the half by laying siege to the Clermont line. The hosts have hands all over the ball, but somehow Owens never raises an arm and after Kilcoyne carries at the posts, Clermont manage to steal the ball and scramble a kick clear.

HALF TIME: Clermont 13 – 3 Munster

Sky have kindly reminded us that “This time last year, Clermont led Leinster 13-6 at half time.”

So, there’s the precedent you need. Now if someone can grease up Wes Fofana’s hands that’d be smashing too.

The second half is up an running with Murray taking a high ball. He’s backed up by O’Connell and ROG slots a kick in behind Nalaga who makes a hash of the bouncing ball and it’s a five-metre line out for the hosts.

Brilliant defence from Bardy.

Murray gets a a long pass back t the pocket all wrong. Zebo collects the loose ball eyes a gap across field, but the flanker telegraphs the run superbly and forces ROG into kicking the ball away. Rather than pushing Clermont back into their 22, it goes out on the full and Clermont get off lightly after a very bright start to the second half.

PENALTY! Clermont 16 -3 Munster (Parra ’48)

O’Connell is getting a team warning from Owens here as Munster are penalised again for going off their feet.

That’s a big moment in the game, Clermont back on the scoreboard for the first time since the 18th minute.

Substitution: Keith Earls has hobbled off the field. Denis Hurley is in the game.

53 mins. Excellent defence from Downey and Hurley. First the centre stops his opposite number, Fofana, from trotting under the posts from a sublime reverse pass from James. Then, Auvergne move the ball left where Hurley managed to hit amn and ball to force a turnover on five metres.

That’s a killer.

Munster win a penalty just inside their half. The line-out on Clermont’s 10, though, is lost as O’Mahony juggles the ball on his way down.

Munster continue to carry the fight forward, but Clermont continue to thwart them.

Zebo, amazingly, rode a huge smash from Sivivatu and Munster had numbers in a narrow channel on the left. But there is no luck out there for men in red as Downey’s pass is collected by Brock James ambling back into defence.

And still Munster sit camped in Clermont territory. O’Gara grubbers a kick in behind Parra and Clermont clear a five-metre line-out.

There’s still hope of a big finish.

TRY! Clermont 16 – 10 Munster (Hurley ’60)

Amazing. Munster are within a converted score after ROG grubbers into the right-hand side for Hurley to chase.

The old dog for the hard road then steps up and adds the extras from a difficult angle.

Game on.

All the way through, Clermont have looked like they just might have an extra gear to go for. But it’s a risky tactic with as much nous as Munster have knocking around.

The hosts respond sharply, attacking Munster on their left wing.

The job starts all over again for the men in red. Every tackle has to be nailed on from here on in.

Munster win their five-metre line-out and after Murray attempts a quick snip, Zebo clears the lines as far as the 22.

No room for any fancy stuff now. Clermont are more than happy to scrounge a penalty from a scrum on their left wing.

But Clermont are feeling the nerves now and even Morgan Parra is susceptible. His penalty drifts right across goal.

12 minutes, six points. That’s Munster’s task.

O’Donnell kicks downfield and Munster steal. That creates all sorts of chaos as O’Gara dinks it in behind the Clermont line.

Jones chases, but the bounce evades him and the defender giving hop to Laulala.

The replay shows Jones knocked on and Clermont have the put in. But they are seriously rattled.

Munster? Well, the pressure’s off.

Stu Barnes continues to use the word ‘demons’ in relation to Clermont. This is a team with a history of falling at the last or second last hurdle.

This is intense. Clermont desperate to keep everything steady. Munster using Felix Jones every time as a strike runner and then ROG puts in a cross-kick to O’Connell on the wing, but we come back for a penalty on halfway. ROG pings it up the line.

Now or never.

O’Mahony takes. Maul.

No, no, no.

Conor Murray takes the ball away from his pack and runs into the blindside channel, but it’s knocked on and Munster have to start again from outside the 22.

The line-out is lost. And so is the game.

Jones and Laulala attempt a counter, but O’Connell is inexplicably judged to pass forward.

And from the scrum, Clermont win the penalty. Amazing scenes in Montpellier, relief for the home side. Munster can leave this year’s Heineken Cup with their head held high.

FULL TIME: Clermont 16- 10 Munster

That’s it from me and the liveblog, folks. Thanks for joining in and bearing witness to what history will either judge as the extension of the Munster legend or the beginning of a new one.

The end?

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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