France fly-half rivals Mathieu Jalibert and Romain Ntamack hit 15 penalties between them to help guide their clubs, Bordeaux-Begles and Toulouse, into the European Champions Cup semi-finals yesterday.
Jalibert kicked eight penalties, including the decisive 55-metre winner two minutes into injury time, to help Bordeaux-Begles to a dramatic 24-21 victory over Racing 92 in the opening of two all-French quarter-finals.
Ntamack had a slight hiccup, missing his first two efforts before hitting seven in succession in Toulouse’s 21-12 victory over Clermont.
In Bordeaux, a tight match saw Jalibert land three first-half penalties, matched by an Antoine Gibert drop-goal and two Maxime Machenaud penalties for three-time European finalists Racing.
Remi Lamerat saw yellow for a trip, but Jalibert’s boot kept Bordeaux, convincing winners over Bristol in the round-of-16, in the game.
Racing had flanker Baptiste Chouzenoux sent off for a shoulder charging tackle in the 64th minute.
But replacement scrum-half Teddy Iribaren nailed two late penalties to draw Racing level after the full 80 minutes.
There was drama as English referee Matthew Carley disallowed Bordeaux a try after the restart following Iribaren’s second successful kick.
Yoram Moefana scampered away to dot down after Ben Lam pressured a ruck, only to be penalised for infringing.
But Bordeaux kept their nerve, turned the screw and won one last penalty, Jalibert making no mistake from distance to bag his team’s maiden European last-four appearance.
Bordeaux coach Christophe Urios said the final minutes had been “an unbearable arm wrestle”.
“I was happy with the team’s character. Six months ago we wouldn’t have won this match. Apologies for the non-spectacle, but in knock-out matches, you’re not there to show that we know how to play rugby, you’re there to win.”
Urios had a special word for Jalibert, calling him “very dangerous”.
“Where he’s advanced most is in his attitude and game management. I knew he’d get that last penalty of more than 50 metres. He didn’t procrastinate, our eyes met and he bagged the three points.”
The second all-French quarter started badly for Clermont when they lost skipper Camille Lopez after just four minutes with a shoulder injury.
Ntamack missed two long-distance efforts in quick succession, leaving it down to veteran Morgan Parra to open the scoring with one of his own in the 25th minute after two-time World Cup winner Jerome Kaino strayed offside.
Parra added a second shortly after, Ntamack finally opening Toulouse’s account on the half-hour mark.
The French fly-half nailed his second to leave the sides tied at 6-6 at half-time of a match dominated by a tough forwards battle in pouring rain.
Parra hit his third to restore Clermont’s lead, swiftly followed by Ntamack, who then kicked Toulouse into the lead after Peceli Yeto made a late hit on the playmaker.
Going into the final quarter, Toulouse looked to be taking a grip on the game, dominating both territory and possession, but another infringement saw Parra boot his team level.
Ill-discipline continued to plague the home side, Ntamack hitting his fifth and sixth penalties as Toulouse’s rolling maul was illegally targeted.
A rare show of attacking rugby from Clermont saw Japan full-back Kotaro Matsushima break free. His offload found Paul Jedrasiak, but France scrum-half Antoine Dupont was on hand to make a crucial try-saving tackle.
Ntamack knocked over his seventh three-pointer with seven minutes to play as Clermont were penalised for the 17th time in the game.
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