Clermont secured a 34-29 bonus-point victory against Ospreys in their Champions Cup opener on Sunday
The hosts had led comfortably 20-3 at half-time thanks to tries from David Strettle and Aurelien Rougerie with Camille Lopez making up the tally with 11-points from the tee
Ospreys fought back after the break through tries from Justin Tipuric and Eli Walker
Strettle’s second score and a late touchdown from Wesley Fofana secured the win and try-scoring bonus point for Clermont
The Welsh side though scored two tries in the last two minutes through replacements Sam Parry and Tom Habberfield to capture both a losing and try-scoring bonus point
The French side has now won 24 consecutive home games in the Champions Cup
Ex-England wing David Strettle scored twice in a stunning Man of the Match performance as Clermont edged out a spirited Ospreys side 34-29 at Stade Marcel Michelin.
Dan Biggar opened the scoring with a drop goal on 15 minutes before Camille Lopez kicked a penalty to level the scores two minutes later.
And the first try of the game came the way of the hosts as David Strettle rushed in, Lopez converting before Aurelien Rougerie finished off a sweeping team move, Lopez again with the extras to make it 17-3, ahead of a further penalty which produced a 17-point home lead at half time.
But Ospreys enjoyed a perfect start to the second half as Justin Tipuric and Eli Walker got over for quickfire tries, both converted by Biggar, to make it a three-point ball game with 30 minutes to play.
However, Brock James’ introduction sparked a fine late effort from the hosts as Strettle got his second of the afternoon ahead of a Wesley Fofana’s score, but tries from Sam Parry and Tom Habberfield gave the visitors some late cheer, securing two fully deserved bonus points.
A slow start in France saw no points scored in the opening exchanges, but Alex Lapandry’s sin binning opened the door for Biggar to break the deadlock, the Welshman hammering over a 30-metre drop goal. But Lopez hit back with a penalty to make it three apiece.
But Clermont, with Nick Abendanon pulling the strings, soon got on the front foot and, bolstered by Lapandry’s return, Strettle scorched in for one of the tries of the weekend, the summer recruit from Saracens racing into space after an early Abendanon pass, before side stepping his way around Dan Evans to score.
Lopez was able to add the two from a favourable angle for a 10-3 home lead and Rougerie was next to go in on 35 minutes, strolling in after a superb team set which produced dangerous territory, allowing Lopez to release the crucial final ball for a simple score. The fly half was again on target with the conversion before kicking a long-range penalty goal on the hooter to set up a 20-3 interval lead.
A positive start was needed from Ospreys to haul themselves back into the game and Dimitri Arhip, on the wrong end of a controversial ‘no penalty try’ decision earlier in the game, was then denied a try by the TMO soon after the restart, but the Swansea-based side soon got the try their hard work deserved.
It was Tipuric who got the score, shrugging his way over on the back of a broken maul, Biggar improved.
And they were in again within seconds as Walker score a classic ‘play to the whistle’ five-pointer. The pacy winger kicked through before Tipuric was tripped as he kicked on again. As those around him protested, Walker steamed on and took advantage of a sluggish effort from Noa Nakaitaci to touch down.
Biggar added the extras once again, but the wind was knocked from the Ospreys’ sails as Dan Evans fumbled a kick close to his line.
Clermont should have extended their lead within a minute but Wesley Fofana fumbled a clever Brock James kick over the line, but they sooon had a momentum-swinging try.
RUCK’s Man of the Match Strettle was the man of the moment once again, the 14-time England man, dummying, skipping and stepping his way through a gap to storm in under the posts from 30 metres out, Morgan Parra improving to put the hosts ten points ahead with 14 minutes to play.
Strettle could have had a hat-trick but was illegally pulled back by Sam Davies, who was sin binned, as he chased his own kick down the wing, and Jamie Cudmore was then denied a score by the TMO.
But Fofana got over with five minutes to play, touching down a James kick, Parra converting to kill off the game as a contest.
Ospreys had other ideas, though, and fought manfully to earn two potentially significant bonus points with the seconds ticking down.
First, Parry rumbled in down the right, before Biggar played his part in a slick length-of-the-field move, which Habberfield did well to finish, Biggar converting, as the Welsh side got themselves a hard-earned losing and try-scoring bonus point.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Clermont: David Strettle
In a game which showcased a mouthwatering array of attacking flair, the former England man stood out. His two tries came courtesy of superb individual pace and footwork, and the former Warrington Wolves academy man, now ineligble for England after his summer switch from the Premiership, can count himself unfortunate not to have finished the afternoon with a treble.
Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Damien Chouly (c), 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Marthinius Van Der Westhuizen, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Flip Van Der Merwe, 20 Vito Kolelishvili, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic , 22 Brock James, 23 Albert Vulivuli
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Thomas Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen
Date: Sunday, November 22
Venue: Stade Marcel-Michelin
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)