History dictates that no team that has remained unbeaten through the pool stages since they’ve been home and away goes on to win the Heineken Cup. Munster will now be hoping the Heineken Cup hoodoo strikes in France in three weeks’ time.
Clermont bared their teeth against Montpellier with five tries in an emphatic 36-14 win that made it 58 wins in a row at Stade Marcel Michelin. Clearly the form team in Europe, they will want to make amends for their semi-final defeat to Leinster last year when they faceMunster.
Their backs ran riot against Montpellier as they hauled in an early deficit to lead 15-9 at the break before cruising clear. The whole three quarter line got in on the act as Wesley Fofana, Sitivini Sivivatu, Lee Byrne, Napolioni Nalaga and skipper Aurelien Rougerie all crossed for tries.
Last year Clermont’s Kiwi head coach Vern Cotter lost out to his former colleague Joe Schmidt in the final four. This year he has no intentions of falling at the penultimate hurdle to another Kiwi rival, this time Rob Penney.
“It’s hard to compare with last year, but I think we are more determined to succeed this year. We keep thinking about that game in Bordeaux last year and it drives us on and motivates us,” said Cotter.
“We aim to keep control on those things we can control — everything else is a waste of energy. If we get something in the end, it will be the result of the hard work of the whole group.
“We know we’ll be facing big opposition and Munster have a great history in the Heineken Cup. Based on recent results and current form, I thought Harlequins would win, but in rugby you just never know what can happen.
“It was great to start the knock-out phase with a convincing win and that will help us move into the final rounds with a lot of confidence. But there is still a lot of hard work to be done, because Munster won’t just let us turn up and win in the semi-final.”
Scorers for Clermont Auvergne: Tries: Fofana, Rougerie, Sivivatu, Byrne, Nalaga. Cons: Parra 2, Skrela 2. Pens: Parra.
Scorers for Montpellier: Tries: Nagusa. Pens: Paillaugue 3.
CLERMONT AUVERGNE: L Byrne, S Sivivatu, A Rougerie, W Fofana, N Nalaga, L Radoslavjevic, M Parra; T Domingo, B Kayser, D Kotze, J Cudmore, N Hines, G Vosloo, J Bardy, J Bonnaire.
Replacements: R King for Byrne (75), JM Buttin for Sivivatu (71), D Skrela for Radoslavjevic (48), V Debaty for Domingo (63), T Paulo for Kayser (53), Ric for Kotze (68), Lapandry for J Bardy (53).
MONTPELLIER: L Amorosino, T Nagusa, T Combezou, S Fernandez, Y Artru, F Trinh-Duc, B Paillaugue; Y Watremez, A Creevy, M Bustos, M Gorgodze, T Privat, F Ouedraogo, A Bias, A Tulou.
Replacements: E Escande for Paillaugue (78), N Lobo for Watremez (49), R van Vuuren for Creevy (67), B Fa’amausili for Bustos (67), M De Marco for Privat (49), J Beattie for Bias (57), Fakate for Tulou (62).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).