Paris (AFP) – Clermont grabbed a European Champions Cup quarter-final berth with a 24-7 victory over Ospreys on Saturday, while holders Saracens kept their hopes alive by crushing Northampton.
Last year’s runners-up Clermont beat the visiting Welsh club to take first place in Pool 2 and secure a home quarter-final, as Saracens romped to a 62-14 thrashing of Saints to finish second ahead of Ospreys.
Nick Abendanon slid on to Morgan Parra’s chip after 25 minutes for Clermont’s first try, before two Parra penalties stretched the hosts’ lead to 13-0 at half-time.
But Ospreys made the home team sweat as Ashley Beck’s try, converted by Dan Biggar, cut the deficit to six points with 10 minutes left.
Clermont wrapped up a fifth win of the pool stage though as Parra and Greig Laidlaw kicked late penalties and Luke McAlister touched down for their second try.
Saracens, who are chasing a third straight Champions Cup title, would have been eliminated by an Ospreys win.
But instead they cruised to a bonus-point victory over English rivals Northampton to improve their chances of taking one of the three last-eight places for the best second-placed teams.
Saints, enduring a miserable season, took the lead twice in the first 20 minutes with tries by Jacobus Reinach and Nafi Tuitavake but failed to score again.
Mako Vunipola powered over for the home side’s first try between the visitors’ two scores, before Alex Goode used his pace to put Saracens in front for the first time.
Further tries from Marcelo Bosch and Richard Wigglesworth sealed a bonus point inside 35 minutes, before South African Vincent Koch crossed before half-time.
Sean Maitland and Sione Langi Vailanu took the final try tally to seven as England international back Owen Farrell finished with 27 points.
– Exeter, Montpellier bow out –
Earlier on Saturday, the final round of the group stage had opened as Montpellier and English champions Exeter were both eliminated with defeats in Pool 3.
Montpellier were beaten 23-14 at home by already-qualified Leinster, while Exeter lost 28-21 to Glasgow at Scotstoun.
Leinster’s grasp on top spot meant Exeter and Montpellier were left vying for second.
Leinster did not look inclined to take things easy in France, jumping into an early lead with a try by Ross Byrne, who then booted a penalty.
The home team hit back and tries by Bismarck du Plessis and Yacouba Camara, both converted by Aaron Cruden, gave them the lead and hope of the victory they needed to stay in contention.
But Leinster crushed those thoughts in the second half as Ireland internationals Robbie Henshaw and Sean Cronin touched down and Byrne kicked five more points.
“We did pretty well in the first half,” said Montpellier coach Vern Cotter. “Then they toughened up their work in the loose.”
In Glasgow, Exeter gradually abandoned their usual disciplined approach after the flamboyant hosts took a second-minute lead with a try by Stuart Hogg.
Sam Simmonds replied for Exeter just before half-time, but Glasgow regained the lead with a penalty try awarded for a deliberate knock-on by Nic White.
With White serving ten minutes in the sin bin and Exeter growing more desperate, counter-punching Glasgow hit the Chiefs with two tries in two minutes from Tommy Seymour and Matt Fagerson.
Don Armand and Ian Whitten scored tries to give Exeter hope, but they failed to complete the comeback and bowed out of the competition.