Top 14 Semi-Finals
Clermont and Perpignan book final spots
May 29, 2009
Clermont Auvergne's Napolioni Nalaga gets to grips with Toulouse's Byron Kelleher in Bordeaux
© Getty Images
Perpignan defeated Stade Francais 25-21 at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon to set up a Top 14 final appointment with Clermont Auvergne, who defeated current champions Toulouse 19-9 in Bordaux on Friday night.
Perpignan will be in search of their first Bouclier de Brennus for 54 years at the Stade de France next weekend, while Clermont will be looking to break their duck and end a run of nine losing finals.
A late try from Italy skipper Sergio Parisse set up a grandstand finish, but Perpignan were not to be denied and dumped Stade out of the competition to ensure that the Top 14 final will have a different look this season.
Perpignan were in control going in to the closing stages thanks to tries from centre Maxime Mermoz, Jerome Porical and Vincent Candelon, and would have been out of sight had Candelon not spurned three kicks at goal.
Stade's Lionel Beauxis, left out of the France squad to tour Australia and New Zealand, scored a full house of a try, penalty, conversion and drop-goal to keep his side in contention but his efforts were continually undone by his team-mate's ill discipline at the breakdown.
With Perpignan 11 points clear and heading in to the final five minutes Parisse struck, rounding off a move featuring some fine handling by Mark Gasnier and Mathieu Bastareaud but his side were unable to find the killer blow after Beauxis' conversion had drawn them to within four points.
On Friday, Man of the match Brock James steered Clermont to victory with the game's only try, a conversion and two penalties as his side exacted revenge for their defeat at the hands of Toulouse in last season's final.
James opened the scoring with an early penalty and created and scored his try soon after - winning the race to his own chip ahead to touch down for the score which he also converted. Toulouse fly-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde kept the defending champions in touch with three penalties of his own but another from Clermont's Benoit Baby saw the take a 13-9 lead into the break.
Baby stretched Clermont's lead with another penalty soon after the re-start but they were reduced to 14-men when flanker Jamie Cudmore was yellow-carded for a blatant late challenge. Toulouse were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage and another penalty from the influential James wrapped up the win.
The defeat for Toulouse also marked the end of veteran lock Fabien Pelous' career. The 35-year-old former France captain, who won two Heineken Cups and three Top 14 titles with the French giants, was given a warm send-off from the capacity crowd as he was chaired off the field by his team mates.