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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Leinster can stage smash-and-grab raid on Clermont

Tight contest on cards in second Champions Cup semi

Camille Lopez drops a goal for Clermont against Toulon
1 of 1

European Champions Cup semi-final
Sky Sports 3, 3pm Sunday

The two highest-scoring teams in the pool stage of the Champions Cup go head to head but we may see those attacking instincts reined in with a place in the final at stake.

Both clubs have been here before, and met in a semi-final in 2012 when Leinster ran out 19-15 winners. The Irish outfit have made one appearance in the last four since then, losing 25-20 to Toulon in 2015, while Clermont's two home semi-finals since then have ended in victories by 16-10 over Munster and 13-9 against Saracens.

Sandwiched between those was a heavy defeat to Sarries at Twickenham, but on French soil it's been a story of narrow margins in low-scoring games.

Clermont boast a terrific balance of power in the pack and pace behind it, but two of their most dangerous backs in centre Wesley Fofana and winger Noa Nakaitaci are sidelined. They still boast a potent back three of powerful full-back Scott Spedding and wingers David Strettle and Nick Abendanon but there's no doubt the absent pair are their two most dangerous runners when it comes to picking holes in opposition defences.

The margin of Clermont's 29-9 quarter-final success over Toulon looks comfortable enough but it was a real slow-burner, with the scores locked at 9-9 before Nakaitaci finally scored the breakthrough try on the hour mark.

It was a far cry from the swashbuckling style that saw Clermont rack up 27 tries and 211 points in six pool matches - a tally bettered only by Leinster with 227 and 31 - and it seems reasonable to expect another cagey affair with the final in sight.

Both teams are heavily changed from their domestic outings last week so there will be an element of players feeling their way into the action, and Lyon's Matmut Stadium de Gerland will be an unfamiliar venue.

Clermont are four-point handicap favourites but given they are without the two trickiest runners in their backline clear-cut chances may be in short supply, and if it remains low-scoring Leinster must stand every chance of gaining a smash-and-grab raid.

Certainly they are a big price at 7-4 but it has to be worth boosting the price to 11-4 by backing the Irish side to win by no more than ten points.

Under 3.5 tries
2pts Evs Betway
Leinster to win by one to ten points
1pt 11-4 Betfair

Both clubs have been here before, and met in a semi-final in 2012 when Leinster ran out 19-15 winners
E.W. Terms
Sky bet