Fixtures - Top Bar

Clermont Auvergne 13 Saracens 9

Saracens went down fighting in their bid to reach a second successive European final as Wesley Fofana’s try ultimately proved the difference in a titanic tussle with Clermont Auvergne.

Clermont had ruthlessly beaten Northampton Saints in the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-finals but Sarries emerge from Saint-Etienne with much credit after their heroic defence for much of the match.

Charlie Hodgson hit a drop-goal and a penalty in the first half, while the fit-again Owen Farrell added another after the break, but the London club ultimately had no answer to Fofana’s piece of magic.

Brock James also kicked eight points in a composed performance to help send Clermont through to a Twickenham final with either Leinster or Toulon.

Clermont started promisingly – with former Bath Rugby full-back Nick Abendanon flitting around the fringes – but when the ball came back infield, James’ drop-goal attempt wasn’t his best.

And Saracens were handed another reprieve soon after, with Wales centre Jonathan Davies failing to haul in a pass when the overlap was on.

Despite those early Clermont chances Sarries were their typically abrasive selves at the breakdown, while Richard Wigglesworth’s box kicking was keeping the pressure off.

Then after a huge Billy Vunipola carry that dragged in three defenders, Hodgson wound up his boot to execute a brilliantly struck drop goal.

The Vulcans didn’t take long to respond and got their driving maul going to within metres of Sarries’ try-line.

And when the ball broke to Napolioni Nalaga, only the combined efforts of Alex Goode and Chris Ashton forced the big man into touch before he could dot down.

The visitors’ resistance finally broke in the 26th minute after they were pinged for not rolling away, James slotting a penalty that bounced in off the post.

With ball in hand Ashton then conjured up an immediate opportunity for a Saracens reply – this time Clermont were penalised for rolling away – but Hodgson nudged a tricky penalty narrowly wide.

Maro Itoje, in what is sure to be his first European start of many, was also leaving his mark with a number of bruising carries.

And Sarries made sure they had the last say of the first half, as Clermont came in at the side and Hodgson used all of his big game experience to bisect the posts again.

Another penalty – this one at scrumtime – handed Hodgson another chance off the tee just before the break but this time he could not push the ball over the posts.

Clermont started the first half with their tails up, putting Sarries under immediate pressure from the kick-off.

And it took a moment of brilliance to finally open up the Aviva Premiership Rugby side as James delivered a beautifully-weighted chip for Fofana to pounce on over the whitewash.

Saracens looked nonetheless composed despite conceding that score, though concerted pressure in Clermont territory came to nothing.

Chris Wyles and Marcelo Bosch then made inroads into the French side’s half only for Jacques Burger to knock-on after a heavy hit.

Goode’s kick and chase nearly proved the opening they were looking for, with Nalaga coughing up the ball under the force of a Wigglesworth tackle.

And after winning the battle in the scrum, replacement Farrell – back from injury – just about squeezed in a penalty to reduce the deficit to one point.

Clermont were not to be deterred however and stormed up the field – with Davies at the forefront – to win another penalty which James made no mistake with.

And the hosts won one final scrum as Sarries ran out of time to book their place at Twickenham.

Latest News

Harlequins Ladies coach savours upcoming Women’s Super Rugby season

Women’s sport is booming according to former Richmond prop and Scotland captain Karen Findlay, who is now relishing the prospect…

Aviva Tackling Numbers programme celebrated at Corporate Engagement Awards

Premiership Rugby and its Aviva Tackling Numbers programme enjoyed not one but two moments in the spotlight at the Corporate…

Corporate Engagement Awards

Lions ready for battle on eve of All Blacks Test

After months of waiting and weeks of build-up, The British & Irish Lions are ready to face the toughest challenge…

Saracens and London Irish to kick off the season at Twickenham

SARACENS and London Irish will help launch the 2017-18 Premiership Rugby season after being chosen as the home sides for…

Ex-England star Susie Appleby excited to lead Gloucester-Hartpury in inaugural Women’s Super Rugby campaign

Former England international Susie Appleby believes it’s an exciting time for women’s rugby as she issues a rallying cry to…

Wasps confirm 2017/18 pre-season schedule

Wasps have today confirmed their 2017/18 pre-season schedule, which will see them face Connacht Rugby and Ulster Rugby, as well…

Wasps celebrate

Quartet sign Academy contracts with Bath Rugby

Bath Rugby is delighted to confirm that Rhys Davies, Wil Partington, Miles Reid, and Kieran Verden have all signed long-term…

Todd Blackadder

Clare Daniels hoping to inspire the next generation of female rugby referees

The first female official in Aviva Premiership Rugby history, Clare Daniels, has urged girls and women to take up officiating…

Luke McLean enthused by London Irish move

Luke McLean is looking to reignite his international career under Italy Head Coach Conor O’Shea following his summer move to…

All Black Francis Saili joins Harlequins

Harlequins is excited to confirm today (Wednesday 21st June) that All Black Francis Saili has joined the Club. Commenting on…

Francis Saili

Bath Rugby sign Phillips from Bristol Rugby

Bath Rugby is pleased to announce the signing of James Phillips, who has joined the Club from Bristol Rugby until…

JamesPhillips1

Nowell gets two tries as Lions see off Chiefs in Hamilton

Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell returned to his sparkling best with two tries for the British & Irish Lions in their…

Nalaga a big coup for Irish says international teammate Tikoirotuma

Explosive wing Napolioni Nalaga can be an big hit in every sense of the word during next season's Aviva Premiership…

Masi and Everard return to Wasps alongside new Academy Manager Jonathan Pendlebury

Wasps are pleased to announce a new Academy structure ahead of the 2017/18 season. The new set-up sees former Yorkshire…

The new Wasps academy coaches

Sale Sharks announce signing of Australia international James O’Connor

Sale Sharks have announced the latest in a wave of world class signings, as they confirm Australian International James O’Connor…

Sale Sharks announce signing of Australia international James O’Connor

Lions prepared for final warm-up before All Blacks Test

After a crucial victory against the Maori All Blacks, the British & Irish Lions are just a single match away…

Wasps sign Paul Doran-Jones and David Langley

Wasps today confirm the signing of props Paul Doran-Jones and David Langley, while loosehead Tom Bristow is confirmed as leaving…

Paul Doran-Jones

Venter integral to Du Plessis opting to join London Irish

Petrus Du Plessis says Brendan Venter was a key factor in his decision to move to London Irish this summer.…

Fight and spirit shone through despite defeat, says England U20 coach Vass

Head coach Ian Vass hailed his England U20 side’s fight and spirit after they were beaten in the World Rugby…