Flying Fijian Napolioni Nalaga scored a try to help his side Clermont advance to the final of the Heineken Cup after seeing off a spirited Munster outfit 16-10 at Stade de la Mosson.
Clermont will face either Saracens or Toulon in the final; but were made to sweat by a Munster side that came agonisingly close to progressing.
As it was, however, les Jaunards deserved their win after a strong first-half showing put them in the driving seat at 13-3 up going into the break.
Sunday’s semi-final duo will be encouraged by what they witnessed though as Clermont showed signs of flakiness when the finish line neared.
The first-half was unsurprisingly uncompromising as both packs went head-to-head, but it was Clermont who won the collisions to lead at the break through Nalaga’s try and two Morgan Parra penalties.
Ronan O’Gara had kicked the visitors into an early lead but they struggled to deal with the power of the Top 14 side.
Munster raised the intensity after the interval and Denis Hurley reduced the deficit, but Parra’s third three-pointer was enough to take Auvergne to Dublin.
Despite appearing to be on the decline and residing outside the play-off places in the PRO12, the Irish province shocked Harlequins 18-12 at the Twickenham Stoop in the quarter-finals.
With the inspirational Paul O’Connell back from injury and O’Gara seemingly saving his best for Europe, Rob Penney’s men have re-found their resilience and belligerence.
Their forwards were impressive early on, driving Clermont back and allowing the Ireland international fly-half to kick them ahead.
However, it wasn’t long before the hosts were asserting their authority and, after a spell of pressure, Nalaga stepped inside and touched down under the posts. Parra added the conversion and then a penalty as Auvergne led 10-3 with just 14 minutes gone.
The French outfit continued to dominate the opening period but a second three-pointer from their half-back was all they had to show for their efforts in the first half.
Although the visitors started the second period well, Vern Cotter’s star-studded team were soon moving through the gears again. After Munster had infringed at the breakdown once more, Parra was on target from the tee for the fourth time in the encounter.
But the Irish refused to cede and they gradually got back into the game. O’Gara, directing operations well, produced a neat grubber which Hurley collected for an excellent score. All of a sudden it was Clermont who were struggling but they held out for a spot in the final.
Pen: Parra 3
Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Regan King, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Clement Ric, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Jean Marcel Buttin, 23 Noa Nakaitaci.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 , 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Paul O’Connell (c), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Denis Hurley.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales)
- Planet Rugby