2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.
Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.
Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.
Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.
The European Rugby Champions Cup semifinals takes place this weekend.
On Saturday, Clermont Auvergne host Saracens at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).
On Sunday, Toulon host Leinster at Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).
Clemont Auvergne vs Saracens:
Saracens knocked Clermont Auvergne for 6 at the European Cup semifinal stage last season, will it be repeat or redemption this time around?
The 46 / 6 triumph booked McCall’s men a place in last seasons’ Millennium Stadium finale against Toulon. They set new semifinal records for the most points scored by a team (46), the largest winning margin (40) and the most tries scored (6). Surely lightning cannot strike twice between the Pool 1 rivals, who each scored a victory over each other in the early Rounds.
Saracens have their defensive leader, Brad Barritt, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of action for a month. England playmaker Owen Farrell crossed for 1 of Saracens’ 6 tries last year and is set to make an impact off the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months in the last meeting between the pair.
A bumper weekend of European cup action saw the semifinalists for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup decided across 3 days.
After an enthralling set of games on Sunday, we now know that Clermont will play Saracens in Saint-Etienne, while Toulon will face Leinster in Marseille in what are set to be 2 titanic battles.
Champions Toulon remain in the hunt for what would be a 3rd successive European title. No side has ever achieved that before but Toulon unquestionably have the players to do so.
They were too smart and too strong for a stubborn Wasps outfit at the Stade Mayol on Sunday, winning with Juan Smith and Bryan Habana watching on from the stands due to injuries. Both are expected however to be in contention for the semifinals.
Bakkies Botha did start in the second row as Toulon won 14 out of 15 lineouts, contributing to their success. Another trophy or 2 for the cabinet remain on the horizon for the Springbok legend ahead of his retirement. Michael Claassens was on the bench.
Defeat for Wasps of course also meant defeat for Ashley Johnson, as the former Cheetahs back rower’s side fell short despite a late rally in the 2nd half. Twice European champions in the past, Wasps are certainly on the up again.
Toulon will face Leinster in the semifinals after Zane Kirchner’s side knocked out Francois Louw’s Bath in Dublin. The former Bulls back was called from the bench early on at the Aviva Stadium and nearly scored a try in the corner not long after his arrival.
With 3 of the 4 quarterfinals taking place on french soil, and all 3 of those against English opposition it could feel somewhat like the Hundred year war for the Premiership sides.
In the only non Anglo-French encounter, Bath travel to Leinster while the remaining fixtures sees Clermont Auvergne take on Premiership table-toppers Northampton Saints, Racing Metro will play last year’s finalists Saracens, and finally champions Toulon will face Wasps.
The record books show that in 72 quarterfinal encounters in Europe’s top flight, 54 have been won by the home club – a staggering 75% success rate for those sides on home soil.
Premiership clubs make up half the Champions Cup quarterfinalists, although all have to play away from home.
English teams have a 20% success rate away from home in the tournament, winning only 4 times in 20 quarterfinal games to date.
For the 9 away matches against French opposition, the success rate is as low as 11%, with only 1 win – Northampton Saints’ 7 / 6 victory over Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian in 2007.
The only other English away victories in the last 8 have been Leicester Tigers over Leinster Rugby at Lansdowne Road in 2005, Bath at Leicester in 2006 and Saracens against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last season.
The 3 French clubs in the Champions Cup quarterfinals have never lost at home in the last 8 of Europe’s top flight.
Toulon and Clermont have won home quarterfinals in the past 2 seasons, while Racing Metro have reached the knockout stage for the 1st time in their history.
The odds are definitely stacked against the English clubs, but that does not mean that any of the French teams will take them lightly.
The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Friday confirmed that efforts to keep Vodacom Bulls locks Jacques du Plessis and Flip van der Merwe in Pretoria have been unsuccessful, with both players taking up contracts in France at the end of the domestic 2015 season.
Du Plessis has signed a two year deal with Montpellier and Van der Merwe will join Clermont, also after the completion of the ABSA Currie Cup competition.
The BBC’s High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg said talks with both players have been ongoing for some time.
Jake White’s Montpellier bounced back from their comprehensive loss away from home to Glasgow Warriors last week by beating fellow French team Toulouse in their final European Rugby Champions Pool 4 match on Sunday. Montpellier won a closely contested match by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 27 / 26 in their favour.
This victory for Montpellier meant that Saracens qualified for the last eight of the Cup in spite of losing their last Pool 1 match against pool winners Clermont Auvergne. The score in that match Clermont Auvergne 18 / 6 Saracens.
The 5 pool winners along with the 3 best second placed team advanced and Saracens made it through as the last qualifying with the lowest amount of points from their 6 matches (17). Had Toulouse won they would have qualified as Pool 4 winners along with Bath who won their Pool 4 match against Glasgow Warriors. Toulouse also ended the pool stage on 17 points but Saracens got through via a superior points difference, +14 versus Toulouse’s +2.
The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.
So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .
French rugby club Clermont will be without Zac Guildford for up to four weeks after the former All Black and teammate Jonathan Davies were assaulted.
The 25-year-old Kiwi, who had a record of ill discipline off the pitch in New Zealand before he made the move to France in the summer, was left with a badly-bruised jaw.
French police have questioned four men on Monday over a machete attack on rugby union internationals Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Pierre and Benjamin Kayser, officials said.
The three from French Top 14 side Clermont were set upon by about 10 armed men as they walked to their hotel in the southern town of Millau in the early hours of Sunday, according to police.
Clermont said that “machetes” and “swords” were used.
Clermont have released a statement on Julien Pierre, Aurélien Rougerie and Benjamin Kayser, saying they should return to training in a month.
The trio, who were attacked in Millau by a dozen individuals “armed with machetes, knives and swords” on Saturday night, were all hospitalised.
Pierre was in the most serious condition but the club confirmed his operation was a success and that he will be back training before September.
French internationals Benjamin Kayser, Julien Pierre and Aurélien Rougerie have been hospitalised following an attack in Millau.
The Clermont trio were attacked by a dozen individuals “armed with machetes, knives, swords” on Saturday night as the players returned to their hotel, according to the club’s website.
The players have been staying in the southern town in France for a training camp and were returning from a nightclub at the time of the attack. All three were then rushed to hospital.
Saracens boss Mark McCall said “it does not really matter” who they face in the Heineken Cup final after a record-breaking win against Clermont Auvergne.
They set new semi-final marks for most points scored (46), most tries scored (six) and biggest winning margin (40), as they romped home 46-6 on Saturday.
The European Cup draws towards the Final with two french giants battling against the cream of the Irish and English leagues in the semifinals.
Reigning European Cup champions, Toulon, are aiming for a fourth European final in five seasons.
And although they are on the opposite side of the semifinal draw from French compatriots Clermont, successes for both of these teams could see a repeat of last years Final.
Last year’s Final saw Toulon just pip Clermont by a solitary point.
The tug of war regarding the premier club competition in European rugby has been conducted very publicly for a long time and a week ago it was reported that an announcement on the structure of future competitions was imminent. However, it all seems to have gone quiet and no final announcement has been forthcoming.
There are rumours that the Italian clubs and their representative bodies were needing to discuss a few details of what should otherwise be a done deal. Furthermore there is the question of the broadcasting battle between Sky and BT Sport which is apparently in the process of being sorted out with a joint broadcast agreement likely for next season. The final rumour is that the parties involved may not have wanted to make any announcements this week in the lead up to the quarter finals of the current Heineken Cup competition.
Clermont’s entire rugby union squad were drug tested on Thursday morning before the French Top 14 side meet English club Leicester in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
The mass testing was carried out before the morning training session with the club claiming that the tests were commissioned by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
Melrose Rugby Club has confirmed four invitational teams that will appear at this year’s Melrose 7s on Saturday 12 April at The Greenyards.
Scottish professional side, Glasgow Warriors will be joined by French Top 14 outfit Clermont Auvergne, Trinidad and Tobago and USA Tigers.
Round 6 of the European Cup, which includes the Heineken Cup (Premier Competition) and Amlin Challenge Cup (secondary Qualification Competition) happened this past weekend and there was high drama and lots of action!
Sunday evening the full puzzle of who plays where in the Play-Off’s of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge cup was revealed.
In the Heineken Cup, Ulster will host Saracens, ASM Clermont Auvergne will host Leicester Tigers, whilst the defending champions Toulon will host Leinster and Munster will host Toulouse at Thomond Park. The Quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of 4 to 6 April.
In the Amlin Challenge Cup Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Gloucester have booked their spots in the Quarter-finals along with the amlin Challenge Cup Pool winners Bath, London Wasps, Stade Francais, Sale Sharks and Brive.
Bath will host Brive, London Wasps will host Gloucester, Stade Francais host Harlequins and Sale Sharks will host Northampton Saints.
The race to these Cup winners will be interrupted by the Six Nations tournament, which takes place from 1 February 2014.
Harlequins (13) 13 / 16 (3) Clermont (Final Score)
Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne did battle in the Heineken Cup at
The Twickenham Stoop at 15:35 SA Time (13:35 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & SHD on TV in SA.
Morgan Parra will make a surprise return to action against Harlequins in the European Cup on Saturday, his Clermont head coach Vern Cotter said on Thursday.
Clermont received fresh injury concerns on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s crunch European Cup clash with Harlequins as New Zealand centre Regan King and France No.8 Damien Chouly were both ruled out.
All Black and Crusaders wing Zac Guildford has reportedly signed a deal with French Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne.
Former Wallabies and Waratahs hooker John Ulugia has agreed to play Top 14 Rugby next season for Clermont.
The draw for the pools for the group stage of the 2013/14 Heineken Cup took place on Wednesday. Reigning champions Toulon will be in Pool Two along with RaboDirect Pro12 semifinalists Glasgow Warriors, as well as Cardiff Blues and Exeter.
English champions Leicester are in Pool Five with Ulster and Montpellier.
Harlequins, Clermont Auvergne, Ulster and Toulon have all qualified for the quarterfinals of the European Cup, but who will join them in the last eight?
Unbeaten English champions Harlequins are the only ones so far guaranteed home advantage in the quarterfinals, so with plenty to play for in Round Six here is the state of the Pools going into the final weekend of group games.
Undefeated Harlequins and Clermont can book European Cup quarterfinals this weekend with Toulon also close to securing their spot in the last eight. English champions Harlequins, bidding to make the knock-out stages for just the fifth time, already have 19 points from four Pool Three wins and on Saturday tackle Connacht where just a losing bonus point will be enough to see them through.
This weekend was a busy one for the Heineken Cup as twelve matches were played in the third round of the competion. The weekend started on Friday night with a comprehensive win for Ulster over Northampton and a win by Connacht against Biarritz. Following Munster’s win over Saracens on Saturday it looked as if there may be a clean sweep of wins for the teams from Ireland and Northern Ireland.
However, Leinster stumbled to a narrow loss in their game against Clermont Auvergne on Sunday. This ended Leinster’s amazing 17 game unbeaten run in the Heineken Cup.