Stade Francais 29-25 Clermont Auvergne, Amiln Challenge Cup, April 29
Stade reach Amlin Cup final
April 29, 2011
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Stade Francais progressed to the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup after beating French rivals Clermont Auvergne 29-25 at the Stade Charlety on Friday night.
Michael Cheika's side were given a helping hand towards the final by former South Africa international Brent Russell, who threw two interception passes that led to tries for Julien Arias and Guilliaume Bousses.
The enigmatic fly-half, who was pitched into the spotlight after Tasesa Lavea withdrew through injury, did score a great individual effort of his own, adding to George Pisi's early score. But the boot of Stade fly-half Lionel Beauxis kept Stade in front to the end despite Jamie Cudmore's late try for Clermont.
Stade will now play the victors from Saturday's semi-final between Munster and Harlequins at Thomond Park.
Stade fly-half Beauxis and Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra exchanged penalties before the visitors took control with a terrific try following a move that began in their 22. The ball was flung wide to the left and France international centre Aurelien Rougerie stormed up the field, dragging Stade defenders with him. Following a couple of strong surges from the forwards, Parra released the ball to the left and Pisi slid in at the corner.
Parra added the conversion from the touchline but just as they looked to be asserting their forward power, Stade hit back. It was a gift. Russell tried to create something on half way but succeeded only in throwing a try-scoring pass to Stade winger Arias, who raced away to score. Beauxis converted to level the scores.
Gonzalo Tiesi then put in a massive hit on Rougerie, driving the big centre back almost ten metres, and during the resulting attack Clermont strayed offside, gifting Beauxis three more points. Clermont's indiscipline at the breakdown was obvious again moments later and the Stade fly-half extended their lead. Clermont strayed offside again five minutes from the break, and again Beauxis booted the ball through the posts.
The French fly-half missed a chance to build Stade's lead early in the second half and Parra took advantage to reduce the lead with a straightforward penalty from in front of the posts.
Russell more than made up for his first-half error with a superb individual try as he booted ahead and had the pace to chase down the bobbling ball and the composure to swoop and score. Parra's conversion put Clermont in front by a point.
Stade were camped on their own line again moments later after Clermont winger Kini Murimurivalu was dragged down inches short. Clermont threw bodies into the breakdown but Stade killed the ball, leading to a yellow card for Arias. It was Stade, though, who nudged ahead again through another Beauxis penalty.
Russell almost created an immediate riposte but his pass to Wesley Fofana was forward before the winger crossed the line. But the unpredictable playmaker cost his team ten minutes later as he threw another blind pass, which Bousses seized on and sprinted in from 60 yards. Cudmore's late try fuelled hope for Clermont but Stade held on to avenge their recent Top 14 defeat to their French rivals.
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