Home European Challenge Cup Clermont clinch third Challenge Cup

Clermont clinch third Challenge Cup

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Clermont has won their third European Challenge Cup on Friday night when they beat La Rochelle 36-16 at St. James’s Park.

There were tries from Penaud, Fofana and Lee with Laidlaw slotted over 18 points with the boot for the champions.

La Rochelle got one try over the line through Uini Atonio in a free-flowing game.

In a free-flowing opening exchange, Penaud almost touched down inside the opening five minutes, collecting a delightful cross-field kick from fly-half Camille Lopez, only to be held back from the whitewash by fellow France international Geoffrey Doumayrou.  

Clermont would strike first blood as the La Rochelle defence came under intense scrutiny, bowing to allow captain Morgan Parra to slot the first penalty of the evening, in front of a record crowd at a Challenge Cup final in the UK.  

It was to be Parra’s lone act of the evening as he was replaced by Scotland scrum-half Laidlaw before the end of the first quarter, with the latter announcing his arrival in style by doubling the points tally – only for La Rochelle fly-half Ihaia West to halve the deficit two minutes later.  

As the attritional affair continued to examine defensive capability, the potent Clermont pack paved the way for the first try of the match as Laidlaw switched play to the left flank, where Penaud would hold off West to cross as the two-time winners took a 13-3 lead. 

New Zealand half-back West would pull La Rochelle back into contention with a couple of three-pointers either side of the interval to make it a four-point game with 35 minutes to play, but that was as good as it got for the maiden finalists. 

Clermont continued to assert their authority on the clash, though, with winger Alivereti Raka – who made 90 metres on the night – winning another penalty from the La Rochelle defence and Laidlaw restored the seven-point lead with ease.  

La Rochelle were made to pay for their lack of discipline at the breakdown as Laidlaw added his third penalty of the night, before a Lopez penalty kick into touch established the base for the second Clermont try. 

In a textbook move, No.8 Lee was powered over the line by a rampant driving maul, leaving Laidlaw to boost to his points tally with a meticulously judged arching conversion to put Clermont 26-9 up with just 20 minutes to play.  

La Rochelle threatened a late fightback as prop Atonio displayed some nimble footwork to spin out of a tackle and crash over the try line, but it was little more than a consolation.  

The final gloss on the Clermont victory came 10 minutes from time as centre Fofana seized on a deft Lopez grubber to dot down a third try as Franck Azema’s side added a third European Rugby Challenge Cup to their trophy cabinet.  

Thanks to epcrugby.com

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