Montpellier moved a step closer to their first ever French championship following a dominant 40-14 triumph over Lyon at the Groupama Stadium.
It was, for the most part, a spirited display from the side that defeated Toulon at the Stade Mayol in the previous round, but they ultimately ran out of steam on Friday.
Vern Cotter’s men were superior in every facet and they touched down twice in the first-half via Nemani Nadolo and Alexandre Dumoulin. The rest of their points in the opening period came through Ruan Pienaar and a long-range three-pointer from Frans Steyn, while Mike Harris responded with three penalties.
Pienaar then extended the advantage before Louis Picamoles effectively completed the victory seven minutes after half-time. The game duly became loose and mistakes were prevalent but Paul Willemse sealed Montpellier’s passage into the final, where they will face either Racing 92 or Castres.
Lyon had the final word when Harris scampered over but it was very much Montpellier’s night.
The pressure was all on the league leaders but they began brightly and opened the scoring after Pierre Mignoni’s men had infringed at the breakdown. Pienaar was typically accurate off the tee and Cotter’s charges held a 3-0 advantage.
Unperturbed, Lyon hit back. They were physical and industrious and put the larger opposition forward eight under duress, earning a penalty opportunity which Harris converted.
Montpellier soon began to take control, however, and created a decent opening when Steyn spotted a gap and surged clear. The South African looked for the pass inside but it was well read by Toby Arnold as the full-back intercepted and ended the move.
They were not to be denied, though, when Steyn kicked one of his trademark long-range efforts before Pienaar extended their buffer with one from slightly closer in.
At 9-3 down, with little possession and on the back foot, Mignoni’s outfit needed a response and Harris’ right boot provided it, but it only gave brief respite as the favourites touched down for the opening try. The gargantuan units up front did the hard work and that gave the equally powerful Nadolo enough space on the left to finish in the corner.
The effort was there from Lyon but they were being outplayed and, despite a third three-pointer by their pivot, Cotter’s men soon crossed the whitewash for the second time. Liam Gill was yellow carded for what was perceived to be a cynical infringement and, following a quick tap penalty, Dumoulin crashed over from close range.
It was a huge blow to Lyon’s chances and it evidently affected them in the early stages of the second period. They were penalised a minute after the restart and Pienaar made no mistake off the tee.
Mignoni’s team were under pressure and Picamoles secured Montpellier’s passage into the showpiece event by benefiting from a lack of concentration by the opposition defence.
There were still 33 minutes remaining but, with the game already won, the Top 14 league leaders eased off the gas. They did produce one last big effort, however, when a powerful driving maul resulted in Willemse rounding off a wonderful performance.
Lyon, to their credit, kept going and were rewarded by Harris’ well-taken score, but they were comprehensively beaten on the day.
Tries: Nadolo, Dumoulin, Picamoles, Willemse
Cons: Pienaar 4
Pens: Pienaar 3, Steyn
Yellow Card: Bardy
Pens: Harris 3
Yellow Card: Gill