Clermont are no strangers to these occasions in recent years but their relief at holding off Munster’s spirited second-half fightback was an emotion shared by many of the French newspapers yesterday.
Besides a general belief that Clermont have been the best team in Europe this year and that they went into this match with something to spare, there was a genuine fear that cup kings Munster, led by Ronan O’Gara, could have railroaded the French giants into submission.
“After a blazing start, le Clermontois kept their cool in the face of a desperate Irish comeback,” Pierre Michel Bonnot told his readers in L’Equipe .
“Even if they remain less of a force than in the years gone by, Munster demonstrated an incredible hunger to never give up.
“They could count these occasions (comebacks) on the fingers of their hands and their willingness never weakened.”
Writing in Le Figaro, Francois Berland paid tribute to Clermont’s ability to overcome Munster’s obstinacy, particularly in light of the French side’s history of painful losses at this stage of competitions.
“Les Jaunards had the courage to resist the Irish onslaught,” Berland told his readers. “Look back on the game, Clermont let the Irish come into their camp… Irish pressure became more urgent by the minute and left Bonnaire and company in an extremely uncertain position until the final whistle sounded. When the referee blew the final whistle, he liberated Stade de la Mosson and the delighted Auvergnats who could then celebrate their accession to the final.”
“We were scared,” Julien Bonnaire told leading French rugby website Rugbyrama.
“We lost control over the key moments in the second half. Great teams manage these things better. We still have work to do.
“(The victory) validates a lot of work, a lot of the difficult experiences but it is compensation for all the work put in by the team.
“But it’s not an end in itself to reach the final.
“A final is played to win so the toughest is yet to come.”