Clermont the big losers on dramatic final weekend of Champions Cup group games
French side Clermont Auvergne spurned a late penalty which would have sent them through to the quarter-finals as Exeter Chiefs and Stade Français progressed in a dramatic finale to the European Rugby Champions Cup group stage on Sunday.
Last season’s runners-up Clermont trailed Bordeaux-Bègles 37-28 when Morgan Parra turned down an 80th-minute penalty in front of the posts in favour of going for a try and squandered the chance of a losing bonus point to top the group.
The kick would have taken the French side to 16 points, enough to win pool 2 with a superior aggregate points tally, but instead Exeter advanced as group winners with a 33-17 victory over Welsh team Ospreys at Sandy Park.
“At the time, we didn’t know,” Clermont captain Damien Chouly told local media.
“We were playing to win the match, giving everything to try and score at least four tries. Anyway, I don’t think we’d have taken the time to think about whether we should have tapped or not.”
Ospreys also went for broke in the dying stages without realising that a bonus defensive point would have sent them through to the last eight on 17 points, but they left the door open and conceded further tries.Exeter will face pool 5 winners Wasps in an away quarter-final, while Stade Français’ 36-21 victory over Leicester Tigers took them through as one of the three best runners-up, and set up a rematch with the English group winners at Welford Road in the quarter-finals.
Wasps ensured top spot in pool 5 – dubbed “the group of death” – by crushing Leinster 51-10 at the Ricoh Arena, picking up a bonus point after scoring seven tries to finish above three-time champions Toulon who reached the knockout phase with a tight 19-14 victory over Bath.
New England call-up Elliot Daly shone ahead of the Six Nations, the centre scoring a try and proving influential as the resurgent Wasps handed Leinster, who played a strong team despite having little at stake, their heaviest European defeat.
“It’s a huge achievement to get out of this group,” Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said. “There certainly weren’t many backing us when the draw was made.”
Leinster’s miserable afternoon began when fly-half Johnny Sexton was replaced in the ninth minute after suffering a head injury that threatens his Six Nations participation for Ireland.In pool 1, already qualified Saracens made it six wins out of six, rounding off their pool campaign with a 28-17 victory at Toulouse.
English champions Saracens’ 28-point tally after six matches guaranteed them a home quarter-final.
“To win in France, especially Toulouse, is a very difficult thing to do and I am very proud of my players,” Saracens head coach Mark NcCall said.
“If you have things all your own way it’s easy to play well but it’s how you respond to setbacks that’s important. We needed to show a bit of resilience and I thought we did that superbly.”
Racing 92 topped pool 3 on 22 points despite their unbeaten streak ending with a 22-5 defeat at Glasgow Warriors.
Already eliminated Munster consigned pointless Benetton Treviso to a sixth defeat, winning 28-5 away to end the group campaign in third on 15 points in pool 4.
Saturday: Ulster 56-3 Oyonnax, Toulouse 17-28 Saracens, Bath 14-19 Toulon, Wasps 51-10 Leinster, Glasgow Warriors 22-5 Racing 92, Scarlet 10-22 Northampton Saints
Sunday: Benetton Treviso 5-28 Munster, Stade Français 36-21 Leicester Tigers, Exeter Chiefs 33-17 Ospreys, ASM Clermont Auvergne 28-37 Bordeaux-Bègles
Final pool standings
Notes: *Qualified as winner of pool | **Qualified as one of three highest-ranked second-place teams
- Saracens v Northampton Saints
- Wasps v Exeter Chiefs
- Racing 92 v Toulon
- Leicester Tigers v Stade Français
(Matches to be played 8-10 April)