Toulon and Clermont make it an all-French Champions Cup final

After a tense and combative match between Leinster and Toulon the third semi-final ever to go into extra-time was decided on a mistake, as Bryan Habana, intercepted a pass from Leinster’s Ian Madigan and streaked 55 metres to the try line, that with his side down to 14 men after Ali Williams had been sent to the sin-bin. Toulon’s Leigh Halfpenny then converting Habana’s try to finish with a personal haul of 20 points and Toulon go through to meet Clermont Auvergne at Twickenham on May 2, for the fifth all-French final. This was not Toulon’s best ever performance of fluid rugby but they will care little as one can ascertain from their profound joy at the final whistle. Victory over Clermont Auvergne, whom they beat fortuitously in the final two years ago for their first trophy, would see them become the first side to win three titles in succession and a top rugby tipster would suggest this is likely to happen. Toulon are a proud but ageing outfit, with six players over 30 in their pack alone and  they know that this will be their last big moment together on the European stage, an opportunity to see out their careers with a record-breaking haul of silverware.“These guys may be old but they showed the stuff that they are made of today,” Bernard Laporte, the Toulon head coach, said. “When you are vulnerable, as we were in our play, then you need the spirit of these types of guys to get you through.”

Leinster did as much as they were able to do to try and defeat the defending champions, but they slipped at the final hurdle and a sports betting expert will know that after winning a trophy in every one of the past five seasons, they are now in grave danger of missing even the Pro12 play-offs, lying in fifth. They had a chance to snatch victory in normal time only for Jimmy Gopperth to miss a dropped-goal from 30 metres and Rob Kearney a long-ranger. Then DelonArmitage had a go from 65 metres to win the match for Toulon with the last kick of normal time but it didn’t go for them either.

In the other semi-final Clermont Auvergne knocked out another English team (Saracens) after defeating Northampton in the previous round and even if it might not have been one of the greatest rugby spectacles, a top rugby pick new that it would turn out as a tense and compelling match of quite jaw-dropping muscularity, as two of the competition’s heavyweights went at each other with staggeringly little regard for their personal well-being.The atmosphere was quite remarkable and that was an hour before kick-off so by the time the teams arrived, the place was in a frenzy, and it remained that way until it exploded into ecstasy when Morgan Parra sent the ball into the stands to signal Clermont Auvergne’s victory. Going into the final, a top rugby prediction would have to take into consideration the fact that they have never won the competition and even if they appear to have everything; the flair and devastating pace they showed in the previous round against Northampton, and the pragmatism displayed here to see off Saracens it seems like they might just fall short.

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