Moment of madness costs rugby’s Clermont

AP – A moment of madness from French star Morgan Parra has cost Clermont a place in rugby’s European Champions Cup.

The halfback spurned a late penalty which would have sent the French club through to the knockout stages of the competition as Exeter Chiefs and Stade Francais progressed in a dramatic finale to the group stage on Sunday.

Last season’s runners-up Clermont trailed Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu’s Bordeaux-Begles 37-28 when French star Morgan Parra turned down an 80th-minute penalty in front of the posts in favour of going for a try and squandered the chance of a losing bonus point to top the group.

The successful kick would have taken the French side to 16 points, enough to win Pool Two with a superior aggregate points tally, but instead Exeter advanced as group winners with a 33-17 victory over Welsh team Ospreys at Sandy Park.

“At the time, we didn’t know,” Clermont captain captain Damien Chouly said.

“We were playing to win the match, giving everything to try and score at least four tries. Anyway, I don’t think we’d have taken the time to think about whether we should have tapped or not.”

Ospreys also went for broke in the dying stages without realising that a bonus defensive point would have sent them through to the last eight on 17 points, but they left the door open and conceded further.

Exeter will face Pool Five winners Wasps in an away quarter-final, while Stade Francais’ 36-21 victory over Leicester Tigers took them through as one of the three best runners-up and set up a rematch with the English group winners at Welford Road in the quarter-finals.

Already eliminated Munster consigned pointless Benetton Treviso to a sixth defeat, winning 28-5 away to end the group campaign in third on 15 points in Pool Four.

In the other quarter-finals, Pool Three winners Racing Metro will host defending champions Toulon and Northampton Saints will visit Pool One victors Saracens.

The winners of the Northampton-Saracens match will meet Wasps or Exeter in the semi-finals, ensuring that at least one English team will reach the final in May.

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