Munster, Clermont advance to European Cup semis
Munster's Ian Kealtey (3rdR) is challenged by Toulouse's Yoann Huget (2ndR) during a rugby union European Cup quarter-final match at Thomond Park in Limerick on April 5, 2014 - by Barry Cronin
The Irish province, themselves former two-time title holders of the continent's elite club tournament in 2006 and 2008, routed Toulouse 47-23 and will be joined in the last four by Clermont, whose nail-biting 22-16 win over Leicester was their 75th successive home victory.
Munster will play the winners of the Toulon v Leinster quarter-final scheduled for Sunday, while Clermont will take on the winners of the Ulster v Saracens clash later Saturday.
"It was one of those days where everything came off for us," Munster lock Paul O'Connell said of his team's six-try-to-two victory over Toulouse.
"We had a great start, and were disciplined for the rest of the game. It was a brilliant performance by everyone and the bench."
A breathless start by Munster at Limerick's Thomond Park was rewarded in the fifth minute.
After more than 20 phases in the French 22m area, fly-half Ian Keatley and Simon Zebo moved the ball right to Keith Earls, the winger crossing in the corner for a try Keatley converted.
Former All Black Luke McAlister responded with a penalty after a Munster infringement at the restart.
Keatley restored the lead with his first penalty after 16 minutes, but Munster were then dealt a blow when captain Peter O'Mahoney went off injured.
McAlister was on target with two penalties to bring the visitors to within four points, but Munster's second try came just minutes into the second half, loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne grounding after a well-worked driving maul, Keatley kicking the extras.
Yoann Huget and Maxime Medard went close in reply, but the home side's dominant forward display again shone through, outstanding replacement CJ Stander driving over from close range after scrum-half Connor Murray again set up the crucial platform on the line.
- Disastrous drop-out attempt -
Keatley converted and suddenly it was 27-9 after 47 minutes, Yohan Montes and try-scorer Kilcoyne sin-binned after one collapsed scrum too many for Welsh referee Nigel Owens.
Completely against the run of play, Toulouse hit back with a well-finished try by ex-All Black winger Hosea Gear after replacement prop Cyril Baille spotted a gap, replacement Lionel Beauxis snagging the conversion.
Keatley notched up another penalty, and then Casey Laulala drove the nail in the coffin after Beauxis' disastrous attempt at a quick 22m drop-out backfired.
Toulouse's Samoan flanker Joe Tekori powered over for a try converted by Beauxis with 10 mintues remaining.
But any thought of an improbable comeback was quashed when first Zebo crashed over in the corner after another Stander turnover in midfield, and then O'Connell scored after the hooter, Keatley having the final word.
In Clermont, a superior out-of-hand kicking game and dominant forward display saw the home side past former two-time champions Leicester, who were 16-0 down at one point.
"We got a little bit ahead and didn't put the foot down," said Clermont lock Nathan Hines.
"We made a couple of mistakes that left Leicester back into the game."
France scrum-half Morgan Parra opened the scoring with a 14th minute penalty.
Centre Wesley Fofana scored soon after, Leicester failing to close down Aurelien Rougerie in midfield and Georgian prop David Zirakashvili providing the crucial pass after a delicate offload from Fofana himself.
Parra hit the conversion and two penalties to take Clermont out to 16-0.
Leicester responded brilliantly, Welsh fly-half Owen Williams' crosskick fed to American winger Blaine Scully and offloaded to No 8 Jordan Crane for a try Williams converted.
Parra hit a third penalty on the stroke of half-time, the Tigers continually infringing under pressure from Clermont up front.
But Williams, preferred in the playmaking position to England international Toby Flood, clawed back three penalties to make it 19-16 with 20 minutes to play.
Replacement Leicester flanker Thomas Waldrom was then yellow-carded, Parra booting the penalty and Clermont holding on as the game went to the wire.