Full-back Kotaro Matsushima’s try and the conversion from Camille Lopez sent the French side through to the last eight in a thrilling clash at the Ricoh Arena; tries from Paolo Odogwu, Josh Bassett and Ben Harris had put Wasps ahead
Last Updated: 03/04/21 2:58pm
Kotaro Matsushima’s converted try on the final play of the game broke Wasps’ hearts as Clermont snatched a 27-25 victory from the jaws of defeat in Saturday’s Champions Cup last-16 clash.
Wasps held a six-point lead at half-time on the back of converted tries from Paolo Odogwu and Josh Bassett, plus two penalties from Jacob Umaga – with Odogwu, Matteo Minozzi and Tommy Taylor having possible scores chalked off as well.
Sebastien Bezy and Peni Ravai had kept Clermont in the hunt with converted tries of their own, but Ben Harris’ unconverted try looked to have been enough to secure the win for the hosts.
However, two penalties from Lopez kept the French side within touching distance and when Zach Kibirige was sin-binned late on, Clermont seized the initiative and kept going for Matsushima’s try and the conversion from the skipper to secure a quarter-final place.
Up until that crushing moment for Wasps, it had been the Odogwu show and he delivered an emphatic reminder of his ability to watching England boss Eddie Jones, scoring a try after just five minutes.
He was one of three changes from the side beaten by Sale Sharks last weekend, with fly-half Umaga making his European Cup debut and James Gaskell lining up at blindside flanker.
Clermont, meanwhile, fielded 10 of the starting line-up that beat Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol Bears 51-38 in December, including France international wing Damian Penaud and Japanese World Cup star Matsushima.
The visitors, bidding for their 11th European Cup quarter-final appearance, were rocked by a superb Wasps start as Odogwu pounced.
Centre Michael Le Bourgeois broke through Clermont’s defence and delivered a scoring pass to Odogwu, who crossed unopposed between the posts, and Umaga converted.
And Wasps should have extended their lead just four minutes later following mesmeric work by full-back Minozzi, who surged clear, kicked over Clermont defenders, gathered a kind bounce and looked certain to score, but he spilled the ball under pressure from Matsushima as he attempted to touch it down.
It was a huge let-off for Clermont, and they responded by punishing Wasps when Penaud launched a brilliant counter-attack from inside his own half, and Bezy finished off a sweeping move, with replacement Tim Nanai-Williams – on temporarily while Lopez was undergoing a HIA – converting.
Clermont then went ahead after centre George Moala beat two defenders, and Ravai showed an impressive turn of speed to score despite Odogwu’s best defensive efforts.
Lopez converted on his return to the action and Wasps trailed 14-7 after a fast and furious opening quarter, but there was no let-up in the skill level as Lee Blackett’s men drew level with another superbly-worked score.
Lock Will Rowlands secured quality lineout ball, hooker Taylor found scrum-half Dan Robson, and his inside ball freed Bassett, who finished impressively.
Umaga’s conversion levelled things up, and then he kicked two penalties in quick succession, giving Wasps a deserved half-time lead after Odogwu went agonisingly close to a second try, but his foot was inches into touch.
Clermont dominated early stages of the second period, cajoled by substitute and former France scrum-half Morgan Parra, and a Lopez penalty made it 20-17.
But back came Wasps, with Harris crashing over for a 55th-minute try following sustained forward pressure, before Moala saw a try ruled out after Matsushima’s forward pass during build-up play.
Another Lopez penalty cut the deficit to five points, yet Wasps remained masters of their own destiny entering the final 10 minutes, but Kibirige’s yellow card in the dying seconds saw them hanging on before Matsushima and Lopez delivered the killer blow.