Laidlaw to the fore as Clermont clinch cup
C l e r m o n t A u v e r g n e clinched a record- equalling third European Challenge Cup final victory by beating La Rochelle 36- 16 at St James’ Park.
S c o t l a n d s c r u m- h a l f Greig Laidlaw played a key role in the win by kicking 18 points as Clermont matched Harlequins’ feat of three Challenge Cup triumphs in front of an English record Challenge Cup final attendance of 28,438.
Morgan Pa r r a k i c ke d C l e r mon t i n t o a 1 3 t h - minute lead with a penalty from 30 metres. But i t was t o be t he France international’s last meaningful contribution, as he was forced off with what a p p e a r e d t o b e a s e r i - ous ankle injury just four minutes later. Parra was replaced by Laidlaw, and he doubled Clermont’s lead with a short- range penalty ten minutes later.
Ihaia West’s penalty cut the deficit but Clermont breached La Rochelle’s defence ten minutes before the break through a fine finish by Damian Penaud, Laidlaw’s conversion opening up a ten- point lead.
Asecond West penalty cut the gap to 13- 6 at the break, before he added a t hird after the interval. Another Laidlaw penalty reopened a seven- point edge for Clermont and La Rochelle were then blown away by a tenpoint burst in two minutes as Laidlaw kicked another penalty, then converted a Fritz Lee try.
U i n i At o n i o g a v e L a Rochelle hope with a converted try, but Wesley Fofana touched down to seal the deal for Clermont as they added to their Challenge Cup successes in 1999 and 2007.