Planet Rugby

Clermont outclass Saracens

08th April 2012 12:06

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Clermont fullback Lee Byrne scores Heineken Cup Quarter Final v Saracens

Try time: Lee Byrne touches down

Clermont cruised into the Heineken Cup semi-finals on Sunday with a convincing 22-3 win over Saracens at Vicarage Road.

The 2010 French champions will now face defending European champions Leinster at Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux for a last-four showdown on April 29, Clermont's first appearance in the Heineken Cup semi-finals.

Australian fly-half Brock James kicked 17 points while Wales full-back Lee Byrne scored the only try of the game.

At times one could have sworn that Clermont were the home team judging by the singing coming from the army of travelling fans from the Auvergne. On the pitch the impression was much the same as Clermont put on a tactically astute display coupled with clinical execution to lead from start to finish.

The hosts never looked like winning. The Premiership champions' flat, pedestrian-paced attacked was consistently repelled by the well-drill Jaunards defence.

Indeed, it was the power of the French side - not their customary free-running game - that provided the key to victory. The visiting pack pounded away to set up string of early penalties before the backs landed the killer blow early in the second period.

With Exeter, Harlequins and Wasps all losing to French opposition in the Amlin Challenge Cup this weekend, Saracens' defeat ended English hopes in European competition this season.

It didn't begin well for Clermont as starting fly-half David Skrela limped off after just three minutes. But three minutes later his replacement opened the scoring from the kicking tee.

James - who famously faltered in the quarter-finals against Leinster two seasons ago - held his nerve to add two further penalties, including one from the halfway line, as the Sarries scrum buckled.

The reply wasn't long in coming though and Owen Farrell slotted an excellent kick to put the hosts on the board on the quarter-hour mark.

The opposing fly-halves each missed further chances to add points as the Sarries scrum made a strong comeback. But Clermont were looking the more dangerous side with ball in hand and so solid in defence they would not concede any further points.

The half ended with Clermont leading 9-3 but the French side extended their advantage soon after the restart with a fabulous try.

Nathan Hines showed great hands to offload in the tackle and put Aurélien Rougerie into space. The big centre bust clear before finding Morgan Parra in support. The scrum-half had three players to choose from on his outside and picked Byrne for the five-pointer in the corner.

James was having a great day and added six more points with a neat drop goal and another penalty to leave Clermont 22-3 up going into the final quarter.

The last twenty minutes were mostly played in the Clermont half as Saracens threw the kitchen sink at the line of white jerseys. But wall would not be moved and Sarries were left frustrated.

Man of the match: A tip of the hat to the Clermont pack, but we'll go with Brock James, who was ice-cool under pressure and pin-point accurate with his kicks, both out of hand and from the tee.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Pen: Farrell

For Clermont:
Try: Byrne
Con: James
Pens: James 4
Drop: James

Saracens 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Owen Farrell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 George Kruis, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Adam Powell, 23 James Short.

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana , 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 David Skrela, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Elvis Vermeulen, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Lionel Faure.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Julien Bardy, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic , 22 Brock James, 23 Jean-Marcel Buttin,

Venue: Vicarage Road, Watford
Referee: Alain Rolland

By Ross Hastie

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