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Donnacha Ryan's Racing win in Clermont to set up semi-final clash with Munster

A controversial Dan Carter pass tilted an intense contest in Racing’s favour.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Clermont Auvergne: 17 

Racing 92:  28

MUNSTER’S SEMI-FINAL travel itinerary was left up in the air for an hour of this thrilling contest, but the southern province will travel to Bordeaux in three weeks’ time to face Racing 92.

The outcome in the fortress of Stade Michelin was balanced on a knife-edge for 62 minutes before the introduction of Dan Carter sparked the visitors to two quick-fire tries that opened up an unassailable lead.

Munster native Donnacha Ryan played a role in the second of those second half-tries, but it was the first of the double tap which will linger as a controversial game-changer for most.

Fresh off the bench, Carter skipped through a tackle just outside the Clermont 22 and unleashed a superbly timed pass out of a tackle off his left hand to find the electric pace of Marc Andreu. However, the TMO replay clearly showed the ball leaving Carter’s hands behind the 22 line and reaching Andreu inside the 22. Barnes’ decision was that the ball left the great All Black’s hands travelling backwards and so the try stood.

Dan Carter Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The howls of derision from the Michelin crowd were in stark contrast to the reception given to their side’s performance in the opening 20 minutes. The home team delivered their trademark frenetic start and completely dominated the opening exchanges as they built a 9 – 0 lead with the boot of Morgan Parra.

By the end of the first quarter though, Racing were doing more than finding their feet. Minutes after being denied a try by the TMO, Andreu sparked their revival by setting up a sensational try.

Leone Nakarawa goes past Remi Lamerat  to score his sides opening try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The wing burst out of his own 22, beating would-be tacklers with searing pace with Camille Chat providing back-up by steamrolling Parra to keep momentum in the move. Machenaud whipped the ball inside as Nakarawa arrived with a full head of steam. The Fijian made the shooting defender miss and shifted into the next gear to power through the gap and under the posts.

That score cut the deficit to two points before Machenaud kicked the visitors into a 9 – 10 lead. Yet just as it seemed as if the Paris club were strengthening their grip, Clermont hit back in superb style, Parra running a loop around Pato Fernandez before whipping a sublime long pass to set Peter Betham charging into the right corner.

Peter Betham scores a try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A missed Parra conversion and a Machenaud penalty on target meant Clermont’s half-time advantage was just 14 – 13, and the two scrum-halves exchanged penalties early in the second half to keep the bare minimum between the sides.

And the slim advantage stayed in the host’s favour until Carter’s arrival, and his controversial assist to Andreu sent Clermont’s supporters mad. The team struggled to keep their heads too and the visitors clinically put the game beyond them with their next attack.

Ryan popped up in wide position despite the searing heat and left it to Teddy Thomas to make yards through the Clermont defence before Boris Palu crossed the whitewash.

Clermont required the same sort of grandstand finish that put Munster safely into the final four, but it never arrived for them. And so Simon Zebo’s future employers, powered by Donnacha Ryan, advanced to set up a Bordeaux semi-final on 21 or 22 April.

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Sean Farrell

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