Sitiveti Sivivatu scored a 60-metre try as Clermont Auvergne recovered from a sluggish start to book their place in the Heineken Cup semi-finals with a home thrashing of fellow Top 14 side Montpellier.
The New Zealand wing collected the ball from the France centre Wesley Fofana in his own half and slalomed through the visitors’ defence to help extend Clermont’s unbeaten home run to 58 matches.
They will host Harlequins or Munster in Montpellier for a place in the final.
“The team worked really hard that’s why I scored,” Sivivatu, the man of the match, said. “We played a big game but that was not easy at all. Credit to them they put up a big fight.”
Fofana, Aurélien Rougerie, Sivivatu, Lee Byrne and Napolioni Nalaga scored Clermont’s five tries after the hosts had fallen 9-3 behind after a timid start.
Montpellier began solidly, Benoît Paillaugue putting them 6-0 ahead with two penalties, and came close to crossing the line on a lightning-quick counter attack.
Morgan Parra reduced the arrears thanks to a routine penalty midway through the first half. Paillaugue added another penalty but then Montpellier lost François Trinh-Duc, their fly-half, through injury and never recovered.
Fofana scored the first try after collecting a superb through kick from Parra who blotted his copybook by missing the conversion.
Rougerie put the hosts ahead after being set up by Sivivatu, who made an impressive foray that left the visitors’ defence in disarray, and the New Zealander was at it again after the break with his stunning try early in the second half.
Rougerie released Byrne for the fourth try and Nalaga capped a remarkable team performance with a last-gap try.
Timoci Nagusa scored a consolation try for Montpellier in the dying seconds.
Clermont will face either Harlequins or Munster in Montpellier for a place in the final.
The Heineken Cup brings back bad memories for Harlequins’ NickEvans, who was haunted by the “bloodgate” scandal.
It was against Leinster at The Stoop that Dean Richards, then Harlequins’ director of rugby, instructed wing Tom Williams to bite on a fake blood capsule so he could make a late substitution.
Richards wanted to get Evans, who was struggling with knee ligament damage, back on to the field in the hope that he could kick the winning points in a ferociously tight quarter-final. He could not, Quins lost 6-5 and their ruse was rumbled. The incident became known as Bloodgate.
Club doctors and physios found their careers under threat. Richards was banned for three years, Harlequins’ name was tarnished.
“It was really tough for me. There are two games in my career I’ve never watched again. That is one of them and the quarter-final of the World Cup in 2007 is the other,” the New Zealander said.
“It felt like the club was imploding. People were questioning why I play rugby and my part in it – they were questioning my integrity and I took quite a big offence at that.
“Having been involved in the whole process, I had to go the hearings and I heard the kind of things that were going on and what was going to happen to the club. “I honestly didn’t think we would even get up to where we were before never mind where we are now.”
Evans is not proud of his role in the scandal but he harbours no regrets, hinting at a general acceptance among players that using fake blood was common practice at the time.
“It is part of my career and part of the club’s history. It is not the greatest part but no regrets. I was just doing my job,” he said.
Clermont Auvergne: Byrne (King, 73); Sivivatu (Buttin, 70), Rougerie, Fofana, Nalaga; Radoslavjevic (Skrela, 47), Parra; Domingo (Debaty, 62), Kayser (Paulo, 52), Kotze (Ric, 74), Cudmore, Hines, Vosloo, Bardy (Lapandry, 52), Bonnaire.
Montpellier: Amorosino; Nagusa, Combezou, Fernandez, Artru; Trinh-Duc (Bérard, 26), Paillaugue (Escande, 77); Watremez (Lobo, 47), Creevy (Van Vuuren, 66), Bustos (Fa’amausili, 66), Gorgodze (Tulou, 68), Privat (Demarco, 47), Ouedraogo, Bias (Beattie, 55), Tulou (Fakate, 61).
Referee: W Barnes.