By Silvere Beau at Stade Marcel Michelin
Clermont Auvergne will face Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-final as they brushed aside French rivals Toulon in a dour meeting.
The two Top 14 sides have a proud European record, but this was no classic as Noa Nakaitaci’s second-half try was the game’s crucial moment. Prior to the wing’s effort, it had been a straight shootout between kickers Morgan Parra and Leigh Halfpenny.
Mike Ford’s Toulon were poor and looked clueless in attack. Clermont were little better, but Nakaitaci’s effort followed by a late try from Damian Penaud was enough to set up a meeting with Leinster.
Clermont’s splintering of the Toulon scrum allowed Parra to open the scoring, before both the French scrum-half and Halfpenny missed with further shots at goal.
Halfpenny was then successful with a much more difficult effort from wide out, but Richard Cockerill geeing up Toulon from the sidelines failed to have an impact on his team. A tight first quarter was dominated by the forwards, with little action behind the scrum.
The wet weather had an impact on the lack of running rugby, but while both Parra and Halfpenny had mixed afternoons with the boot, two more penalties from either kicker made it 6-6 at the break.
Parra and Halfpenny exchanged further kicks to make it 9-9, before Clermont struck on the hour mark.
In a game which had barely threatened a try, Nakaitaci’s score was a rare moment of brilliance, Aurelien Rougerie’s powerful carry giving Camille Lopez the platform to put the wing away in the corner.
Parra converted and then missed another penalty, but by that stage the damage had been done.
Fly-half Lopez slotted a simple drop goal to seal the win and Parra’s penalty followed by a late converted breakaway try from Nakaitaci’s replacement Penaud only served to add gloss to the final scoreline.