CLERMONT GRABBED A Champions Cup quarter-final berth with a 24-7 victory over Ospreys this afternoon, while holders Saracens kept their hopes alive by crushing Northampton.
Last year’s runners-up Clermont beat the visiting Welsh club to take first place in Pool 2 to secure a home quarter-final, as Saracens romped to a 62-14 thrashing of Saints to finish second ahead of Ospreys.
Nick Abendanon slid on to Morgan Parra’s chip after 25 minutes for Clermont’s first try, before two Parra penalties stretched the hosts’ lead to 13-0 at half-time.
But Ospreys made the home team sweat as Ashley Beck’s try, converted by Dan Biggar, cut the deficit to six points with 10 minutes left.
Clermont wrapped up a fifth win of the pool stage though as Parra and Greig Laidlaw kicked late penalties and Luke McAlister touched down for their second try.
Saracens, who are chasing a third straight Champions Cup title, would have been eliminated by an Ospreys win.
But instead they cruised to a bonus-point victory over English rivals Northampton to improve their chances of taking one of the three last-eight places for the best second-placed teams.
Saints, enduring a miserable season, took the lead twice in the first 20 minutes with tries by Jacobus Reinach and Nafi Tuitavake but failed to score again.
Mako Vunipola powered over for the home side’s first try between the visitors’ two scores, before Alex Goode used his pace to put Saracens in front for the first time.
Further tries from Marcelo Bosch and Richard Wigglesworth sealed a bonus point inside 35 minutes, before South African Vincent Koch crossed before half-time.
Sean Maitland and Sione Langi Vailanu took the final try tally to seven as England international back Owen Farrell finished with 27 points.
Earlier in the day, Montpellier and Exeter both chased bonus-point victories but fell short as their European campaigns ended at the pool stages.
Montpellier lost 23-14 at home to Leinster, who had already clinched first place in Pool 3, while in Scotstoun, Exeter lost 28-21 to Glasgow.
Leinster’s grasp on top spot meant Exeter and Montpellier were vying for second place as well as chasing one of the three quarter-final places available to group runners-up.
Exeter gradually abandoned their usual disciplined approach after flamboyant Glasgow took a second-minute lead with a try by Stuart Hogg.
After Sam Simmonds replied for Exeter just before the break, Glasgow regained the lead with a penalty try awarded for a deliberate knock on by Nic White.
With White serving 10 minutes in the bin and Exeter growing more desperate, counter-punching Glasgow hit the Chiefs with two superb tries in two minutes from Tommy Seymour and Matt Fagerson.
Don Armand and Ian Whitten scored tries to give Exeter hope, but the English champions lacked the accuracy to turn frantic attack into heroic tries at the death.
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