Leinster, Clermont march on

Leinster and Clermont won their play-off games against Ulster and Biarritz respectively on Friday.

In the first Magners League semi-final, Leinster powered to a 18-3 win over Ulster in Dublin.

Ulster were the form team heading into the semi as they won nine of their 11 games, but injuries saw them go into the match without flanker Stephen Ferris, utility back Paddy Wallace, wing Andrew Trimble and tighthead prop BJ Botha. Outside centre Brian O’Driscoll played his 150th game for the Leinster and delivered an outstanding performance before he was taken off at half-time because of the European Cup final against Northampton Saints next weekend.

The home team enjoyed a 11-0 lead at half-time as wing Brian McFadden crossed the chalk and flyhalf Jonny Sexton slotted two penalties. Wing Luke Fiitzgerald second-half try sealed the game as he slid through scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and flanker Pedrie Wannenburg on his way to the chalk. Ulster could only manage a 60m penalty in the second half through Pienaar in a disappointing display.

Leinster will play in their second final against Munster or Ospreys, who compete in Saturday’s semi-final. Ulster’s early exit could now see Pienaar go on loan to a South African Super Rugby team in preparation for the World Cup – the former Sharks man has been linked with a move to the Stormers.

In the French Top 14, Clermont qualified for a semi-final clash against Toulouse after they turned around 17-6 deficit to down Biarritz 27-17 in an outstanding comeback victory.

Scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili played a big part in the visitor’s half-time lead as he scored 12 points via a try, two conversions and a penalty. Flyhalf Julien Peyrelongue scored the second five-pointer to put his team nine points ahead at half-time.

Clermont produced a strong second-half showing as they put together a 19-point blitz for the win. Flyhalf Brock James, hooker Alexandre Lapandry and wing Julien Malzieu dotted down while scrumhalf Morgan Parra and James added the extras. Sharks-bound centre Marius Joubert impressed for the victors as he played a full 80 minutes while utility back Brent Russell was an unused sub.