The top two teams will go head-to-head in the French domestic final after Clermont Auvergne deservedly overcame Lyon 33-13 in Bordeaux on Sunday.
Les Jaunards have enjoyed a fine campaign and an appearance in the showpiece event is just reward for their efforts, but they were made to work by Pierre Mignoni’s men, particularly in the first half.
Despite ending the regular season behind Clermont, the third-placed finishers moved into an 8-3 lead via Liam Gill’s try and Jonathan Wisniewski’s penalty, but Auvergne hit back.
Greig Laidlaw had kicked an earlier three-pointer and added two more off the tee to give them the advantage before Damian Penaud touched down for a 16-8 advantage at the interval.
Even though Lyon opened the second period on the front foot, Franck Azema’s side were simply too good as Alivereti Raka and George Moala went over to complete the victory and secure their passage through to the final, where they will take on Top 14 leaders Toulouse, who beat La Rochelle in their last-four encounter on Saturday.
After a slow opening quarter, which saw Lyon control matters, Les Jaunards gradually took control and ended the first half in the ascendancy. Mignoni’s charges were excellent early on and were rewarded when Gill crossed the whitewash as they moved 5-0 ahead.
Laidlaw did respond for Clermont by kicking a penalty but Wisniewski restored the five-point buffer for the Matmut Stadium de Gerland outfit.
However, the 2017 winners began to find their rhythm and, after Laidlaw had moved them ahead via successive efforts off the tee, Penaud scored following good work by Isaia Toeava.
The conversion from Auvergne’s scrum-half took them into a good position at the break and they then secured their place in the final in the early stages of the second period.
Similar to the first half, Lyon began the final 40 minutes well, pressurising the opposition rearguard, but Azema’s men had the quality when it mattered.
They were also helped by a yellow card for prop Clement Ric after a series of scrum infringements, but Auvergne still needed to be clinical and Penaud stepped up, charging through the middle and passing to Raka for an easy finish.
To their credit, Mignoni’s charges continued to battle and they found their way across the whitewash via the excellent Deon Fourie, but Laidlaw’s penalty and Moala’s try rubberstamped the win.
Tries: Penaud, Raka, Moala
Cons: Laidlaw 2, Lopez
Pens: Laidlaw 4
Yellow Card: Lopez
Tries: Gill, Fourie
Yellow Card: Ric