Clermont Auvergne 15-19 Leinster
The oldest rugby adage states: “Defense wins you tournaments.” That certainly proved the case as Leinster held on under intense pressure on their line to hold out for arguably their greatest Heineken Cup semi-final win.
Over the 80+ minutes, Leinster deserved the win having scored the only try of the game inside the first minute of the second half. It was their defense which won the game for them at the death however as Leinster held firm. For a side renowned for their attacking prowess Leinster have now managed to come through both their quarter final against Cardiff and the semi final without conceding a try.
Joe Schmidt’s side have now reached a third Heineken Cup final in four years and they look set to usurp Munster (if they already haven’t) as Ireland’s greatest and possibly even Toulouse – as Europe’s greatest club rugby side.
In an even first half it was Leinster who opened the scoring when Johnny Sexton slotted over. However four penalties from the boot of Fly-half Brock James had given the ‘home’ side a 12-6 half-time with Sexton keeping Leinster in sight with his second of the day.
Leinster quickly obliterated that lead with man of the match Rob Kearney bursting through a gap before finding Cian Healy who made the 15 metres to the try line. Conversion from Sexton gave the defending champions a one point lead.
Clermont put the pressure back on and Kearney takes a customary superb mark before finding an excellent touch.
Kearney then comes up trumps with a superb drop goal from 50 meters to give Leinster a four point lead.
The Leinster man then concedes a penalty and James converts to make it a one point game with 25 minutes to go.
Following continued pressure, Sexton converts a penalty to put four between the teams again.
Sexton has a big chance to put some real breathing space between the teams, but his kick goes just the wrong side of the post, following a visit to the TMO with ten minutes to go. The score is still 19-15.
Leinster continue to pressure but Clermont clear their lines and the final five minutes is spent camped in the Irish side’s 22.
The noise is deafening as Clermont inch their way towards the try-line with pick and go after pick and go. With 80 seconds on the clock, they look to have finally worn Leinster down as Fofana crashes over the try line but the ball slips out of his grasp and forward. No try.
Clermont win a five meter penalty with seconds on the clock but Leinster hold out for the remaining few seconds and Healy emerges to win a penalty from the breakdown. With the game having passed the 80 minute stage, Sexton kicks the ball behind him and into touch, sparking massive celebration from the visitors.
Leinster now face Ulster in a first ever all-Ireland Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on 19th May.