Cardiff Blues came up short in their quest to make the Champions Cup play-off final as they went down 46-21 to Stade Francais in Paris.
The result means the Blues will play in the European Challenge Cup for the third consecutive season after missing out on a place in next week’s final.
The Blues got off to a good start and led 14-10 at the break thanks to tries from Macauley Cook and Nick Williams but injuries took their toll on the side.
Waisea Nayacalevu went over for a try in the first halt to keep Stade in touch at the break.
And then winger Sekou Macalou crossed twice in the second half for Stade, before Giorgi Melikidze, Mathieu de Giovanni, Laurent Panis and Clement Daguin also ran tries in the second period.
Cook scored a consolation second try for the visitors at Stade Jean Bouin but it was too little too late for the Welsh side.
Blues really struggled with injuries, even before kick-off, as Tom James pulled up in the warm-up and that was further compounded when his replacement, Rhun Williams, turned his ankle in the opening minutes.
After a tight opening quarter, with a penalty from Stade fly-half Morne Steyn the only score, Blues put their injury woes behind them and took the lead.
Cook scored the game’s opening try midway through the first half, finishing off a move started by centre Willis Halaholo.
Just three minutes later Halaholo broke clear again before No.8 Williams forced himself over.
Stade hit back before the break with a try from powerhouse wing Nayacalevu after Steyn breached the visitors’ defence.
But things went from bad to worse on the injury front for Blues as Steve Shingler, Halaholo, Matthew Rees and Kirby Myhill all went off injured and they were forced to play the final quarter with Ellis Jenkins in the centre and Tomos Williams on the wing.
And Stade took advantage and showed their class in the second period as they raced into the lead and never looked back.
Prop Melikidze forced his way over the line from close range to put his team ahead.
Stade then went up a gear, breaching the Blues defence before replacement centre De Giovanni crossed out wide to extend their lead.
Wing Macalou finished off a fine move to score Stade’s fourth before Blues hit back with Cook crossing for his second after latching on to a Gareth Anscombe chip through.
Macalou crossed for his second before tries for replacements Panis and Daguin sealed a comfortable victory.
The win means Stade go on to face the winners of Saturday’s second semi-final between Northampton and Connacht on May 26 with a place in next season’s European Champions Cup up for grabs.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final