Heineken Cup: Clermont defeat puts champions Leinster on brink of elimination
Last Updated: 15/12/12 7:05pm
Aurelien Rougerie: Clermont winger on the charge
Clermont claimed their fourth straight win in Heineken Cup Pool 5 with a hugely impressive 28-21 win over defending champions Leinster in Dublin.
Clermont are heading for a home quarter-final and look worthy favourites to lift the tropy for the first time after a dominant display that gave them back-to-back victories over Leinster.
The Irish side have won the competition three times in the last four years but look set to miss out on a quarter-final barring an unlikely series of results in the final two rounds.
Clermont dominated proceedings particularly in the second half, their power and precision at the breakdown proving too much for the injury-ravaged hosts.
Morgan Parra and Jonathan Sexton knocked over a couple of penalties apiece during a fairly even opening quarter, but Leinster were forced into desperate defence of their own line on the half hour and were grateful to concede just a penalty and a further three points to Parra.
But on 34 minutes Clermont did get the breakthrough, Sitiveni Sivivatu surging down the left touchline and offloading to give Wesley Fofana the chance to show his strength with a powerful finish in the corner. Parra knocked over the conversion and Clermont led 16-6 at the half.
A collapsed Leinster scrum meant that was quickly 19-6 although Sexton was able to cut the deficit again after Clermont were caught in possession inside their own 22.
Sean O'Brien was yellow carded for taking Sivivatu out off the ball with an ugly blow round the back of the head and Parra stretched the lead again, although he hit a post shortly afterwards after a five-metre scrum collapsed.
Midway through the half Leinster were wilting and after Brock James was held up over the line by Leo Cullen, the subsequent scrum collapsed and Parra made Leinster pay.
But the champions did rouse themselves for a stirring finish and the losing bonus point they earned may just prove crucial in scraping into the last eight.
Shane Jennings was driven over from a lineout on 65 minutes and although Parra's eighth successful kick from nine attempts settled French nerves, a suberb break and offoad from Sexton in the final play of the game put Fergus McFadden over for the bonus point.
It was a consolation that may prove more than that, but there were no Leinster celebrations at the end.