Leicester Tigers booked a place in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals with beating ASM Clermont Auvergne over two legs in the Round of 16.
Playing in the unfamiliar situation of aggregate scores counting over the two games, Tigers followed up a win in France with a 27-17 verdict in the return at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday to win 56-27 overall and book a quarter-final home meeting with Leinster Rugby.
Tigers, who led 29-10 from the opening leg after scoring five tries at the Stade Marcel-Michelin six days ago, stated all week that the job was still to be done and led 7-3 at half-time in the return fixture thanks to a Hanro Liebenberg try scored after just nine minutes.
Matt Scott, on as a replacement, provided the next try in the early stages of the second half and Freddie Steward added amnother following a penalty try in front of a 22,722 crowd in the Easter sunshine.
Chasing a quarter-final place for the first time since 2016, Tigers called Nic Dolly into the front row after starting on the bench in France, while Steve Borthwick also brought in Harry Wells and Eli Snyman to start.
Clermont were led by hooker Yohan Beheregaray as France Under-20s scrum-half Baptiste Jauneau made his first start for the club and, back from a year-long injury absence, Samuel Ezeala provided cover at centre and wing from the bench.
After tributes to former Tigers player Arthur Hazlerigg and Chief Constable Simon Cole ahead of kick-off, Clermont got the game started and were immediately on the attack, play remaining in the Tigers 22 for long stretches of the opening exchanges before the defence won a penalty on the floor to a huge cheer from the home crowd.
Clermont stayed in possession, though, forcing Tigers into their defensive sets, until a wayward pass flew into touch.
During the pause, Clermont lost centre George Moala to injury, their second change after lock Miles Amatorsero withdrew in their warm-up.
Tigers got out of their half for the first time on nine minutes and immediately made the most of the opportunity with an opening try for Liebenberg, dragging defenders with him as he reached for the line next to the posts at the Mattioli Woods Stand end after a carry from Ellis Genge. George Ford added the kick for a 7-0 lead.
Dolly won a defensive penalty over the ball after Wesley Fofana inspired another ASM attack but the game was still being played predominantly at that end of the field.
A pinpoint kick to the right-hand corner from a penalty gave them another chance in attack, though Steward – in his 50th first-team appearance – twice wrapped up Fofana close in. Penalties were mounting up, though, and when the whistle went against Tigers again, referee Andrew Brace spoke to captain Genge as Camille Lopez called for the kicking tee. His kick made it 7-3 on 15 minutes.
Dan Kelly’s kick and Chris Ashton’s chase pushed Clermont back, but play was halted for a forward pass when Genge thundered into the line.
Matias Moroni and Harry Potter joined forces to stop a dangerous break from Alivereti Raka which started back in his own half, but Tigers were whistled again near halfway, allowing the visitors to build on set-piece ball kicked to the left.
When they applied pressure near the posts, Ford’s kick was charged down in-goal but scrum-half Jauneau touched down on the deadball line and the referee denied the score after checking replays.
Tigers won turnover ball in defence but were penalised again as they contested a breakdown on halfway and had to defend more Clermont possession before forcing an error and kicking upfield.
Liebenberg and then Steward made breaks as the pace continued, finally bringing a penalty in Tigers’ favour on the left edge of their rivals’ 22 with play entering the final 10 minutes of the half.
A lineout drive set up a position for Harry Wells to attack the tryline but the ball bobbled loose just short of the score.
Steward carried again after a wayward kick from Lopez and, when Jack van Poortvliet pushed play into the corner, Ashton gambled as he flung himself towards the ball as it bounced in-goal as Jauneau tracked back. The referee ruled no try, with play restarting on the five-metre line with a Clermont scrum from the knock-on.
With time almost out, Jauneau latched on to loose ball just inside the Leicester half and he looked destined for the left-hand corner, but his pass inside as the defence closed in was dropped by hooker Yohan Beheregaray.
Kelly fell as he raced back in that defensive effort, though, and was helped off the field as Scott came off the bench.
The crowd screamed for a knock-on when Clermont fielded a Ford clearance, but play continued, until Steward’s pass to Ashton floated forward on the opposition 22 in the closing action of the half, with Tigers 23 points ahead on aggregate scores.
When the game restarted, Tommy Reffell had to reach out to bring down Fofana with an ankle tap as he found a gap near halfway and the flanker was back in the line to force a knock-on and turnover.
A break by van Poortvliet was stopped 10 metres out and Clermont quickly blocked progress as Tigers tried to spread play out wide.
Referee Brace whistled against Clermont at their scrum and Ford kicked the points for a 10-3 advantage as Borthwick sent on Charlie Clare, Calum Green and Ben Youngs from the bench.
The crowd cheered a second scrum penalty moments later and this time Ford took play to the left corner, where Scott provided a second try.
Harry Wells secured the ineout ball, Reffell took play on and then, when Ford switched to go left, he put the flanker back in possession and Scott stepped off his left foot to run in and score, putting Tigers 15-3 in front on the day.
Lopez pushed Tigers back with a penalty to the corner soon afterwards and, although Ollie Chessum wrapped up ball, the referee said he had done it illegally and Clermont opted for a scrum just five metres out.
They stayed on the attack, recycling in the face of strong defence until finally creating space for Raka to score on the right and replacement Morgan Parra added the conversion to make it 15-10.
When lock Paul Jedrasiak intercepted a Tigers attack, Steward pushed him back towards his own line and Clermont hooker Etienne Fourcade was yellow-carded as he stopped the turnover opportunity. Charlie Clare thought he’d scored as Tigers drove towards the line and although the referee initially awarded it, he called for TMO assistance and instead, yellow-carded prop Daniel Bibi Biziwu and gavea penalty try.
Tigers, though, then lost Chessum to a red card after checks on a high tackle, but the home team still ended the game on the front foot, playing out in the visitors’ half.
Tigers beat Clermont Auvergne 27-17 on the day, 56-27 on aggregate to reach a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster Rugby. Crowd of 22,722. Thank you all.
Para adds the conversion, it is Tigers 27-17 Clermont on 70min
Clermont have a second try, No8 Fritz Lee steaming through to score.
Burns off target with the conversion but Tigers lead 27-10 on the day, 56-20 on aggregate. 67min.
WHAT A SCORE
Ben Youngs breaks from inside his own 22, Harry Potter takes play all the way upfield before putting in Freddie Steward to score. 27-10. Home crowd love that one!
Ollie Chessum is red-carded after his tackle near the touchline.
Penalty Try awarded to Tigers after Clermont stop Charlie Clare on the line. 22-10 on 63min
Clermont prop Daniel Bibi Biziwu yellow carded as the penalty try is awarded.
Replacement hooker Etienne Fourcade sinbinned as Clermont defend their line.
Morgan Parra converts try by Raka, it is 15-10 on the day to Tigers, 44-20 on aggregate, 58mins.
Clermont have a try, Raka finishing patient attack in the right corner.
Matt Scott scores a try after smart work from Reffell and Ford, to put Tigers 15-3 in front. It is 44-13 on aggregate. Ford wide with the conversion, 51mins gone on the clock.
Scrum penalty to Tigers and Ford adds the 3 points, it's 10-3 on 45min.
George Ford kicks off for the second half,, Tigers lead 7-3.
Tigers lead 7-3 on the day, 36-13 on aggregate at the end of a breathless first half.
Big escape as Clermont break but spill ball as they reach the Tigers 22. There are a couple of Tigers down though and Kelly leaves the field, replaced by Scott. Still 7-3.
No try Tigers, Ashton just missing the decisive touch as he slid after bouncing ball in-goal. Still 7-3.
Hardly time to blink in this game, with Liebenberg and Stewards making dangerous breaks for Tigers.
No try Clermont, scrum-half Jauneau denied as ball touches the deadball line after a charge down.
Penalty for Clermont in front of the posts as Lopez kicks their opening points on 15mins. Tigers lead 7-3 on the day.
George Ford adds the conversion for a 7-0 lead. Remember it is 29-10 from the first leg.
Hanro Liebenberg drags defenders with him as he scores at the posts at the Mattioli Woods Stand end. 9min gone.
Opening 5 minutes played in the Tigers 22, but big defensive effort and now we are 70 metres upfield.
KICK-OFF | Leicester Tigers v ASM Clermont Auvergne
Kick-off follows a moment’s applause in tribute to the people of Ukraine and also to former Tigers forward Arthur Hazlerigg and former Chief Constable Simon Cole. Clermont kick off with Tigers in green and ASM in white. Tigers are playing left to right as we look from the dugouts.
Late change for CLermont. 5 Amatosero is out after the warm-up, Jedrasiak comes into the 5 shirt. Cancoriet goes from 20 to 19, Fischer is added at 20.
It is sunny! Just like the Stade Marcel-Michelin a week ago, we’ve enjoyed Spring sunshine this week. Now, as the teams go through final preparations ahead of kick-off it is a beautiful day for European rugby.
CLERMONT AUVERGNE: 15 Cheik Tiberghien, 14 Alivereti Raka, 13 George Moala, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Jauneau; 1 Giorgi Beria, 2 Yohan Beheregaray (c), 3 Christian Ojovan, 4 Thibaud Lanen, 5 Miles Amatosero, 6 Clement Lanen, 7 Lucas Dessaigne, 8 Fritz Lee
REPLACEMENTS: 16 Etienne Fourcade, 17 Daniel Bibi Biziwu, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Judicaël Cancoriet, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 John Joseph Hanrahan, 23 Samuel Ezeala
HOW TIGERS LINE UP
There are no changes to the line-up announced on Friday.
15 Freddie Steward , 14 Chris Ashton , 13 Matías Moroni , 12 Dan Kelly , 11 Harry Potter , 10 George Ford , 9 Jack van Poortvliet ; 1 Ellis Genge (c) , 2 Nic Dolly , 3 Joe Heyes , 4 Harry Wells , 5 Eli Snyman , 6 Ollie Chessum , 7 Tommy Reffell , 8 Hanro Liebenberg 
16 Charlie Clare , 17 Francois van Wyk , 18 Dan Cole , 19 Calum Green , 20 Jasper Wiese , 21 Ben Youngs , 22 Freddie Burns , 23 Matt Scott 
MATCH PREVIEW | Leicester Tigers v ASM Clermont Auvergne
The Heineken Champions Cup breaks new ground at Mattioli Woods Welford Road today with the return leg of the new Round of 16 between Leicester Tigers and ASM Clermont Auvergne.
Organisers EPCR have staged the last-16 clashes over two legs with places in the quarter-finals determined by aggregate scores.
Tigers earned a 29-10 victory over Clermont in the opening leg, but fly-half George Ford says: “The focus and mindset is that we’ve done nothing yet and there is another 80 minutes to play against a quality team.
“It’s great to go to places like Clermont and also to bring them back to Mattioli Woods Welford Road and hopefully they will be able to experience what it’s like playing in Leicester because it is incredible.”
Tigers have not reached the knockout stages of the Champions Cup since 2016, though the team did reach the Final of the Challenge Cup last season.
If aggregate scores are level at the end of 80 minutes, extra time is played. There is also provision for a place-kicking competition to find the winner.
Referee is Andrew Brace from Ireland, who was also in charge of the Challenge Cup Final last season.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE
We’re LIVE as Leicester Tigers host ASM Clermont Auvergne in Heineken Champions Cup. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.
If you are not at the game, you can keep up with all of the action here with Matchday Live on the Tigers App and website at www.leicestertigers.com.