Clermont's fortress stands firm

Sat, 05 Jan 2013 21:07
Large brock james clermont kicks Large vern cotter clermont Large aurelien rougerie clermont

Clermont extended their unbeaten home streak to 53 games on Saturday with an ultimately convincing 36-18 victory over Montpellier.

Clermont extended their unbeaten home streak to 53 games on Saturday with an ultimately convincing 36-18 victory over 2011 French championship finalists Montpellier.

Victory saw the 2010 champions consolidate second place in the Top 14 table, three points behind Toulon, who are at home to Racing-Metro on Sunday - Montpellier, who have not won in 12 visits to Clermont and conceded 34 points on average, will remain in the top six.

Clermont head coach Vern Cotter wasn't entirely happy with his side's performance, blaming it on a mixture of his rotating the team line-up and their minds being on next weekend's European Cup pool clash with English side Exeter.

"We know that if we beat Exeter we have the possibility of qualifying and maybe even for the first time hosting a quarter-final," said Cotter, whose side have not lost in Clermont since a defeat by Biarritz in 2009 although they did lose to eventual champions Leinster in Bordeaux in last season's 'home' European Cup semifinal.

Clermont had been on the back foot early on when Argentinian prop Maximiliano Bustos charged over to touch down after a fine pass by France fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc had created the opening - it was converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.

However, Clermont hit back as a superb inside pass by Brock James sent Wesley Fofana bursting through to touch down under the posts and Morgan Parra converted to level the scores.

Parra and Montpellier's place kicker, Argentinian Martin Bustos Moyano, swapped penalties to keep the sides all square but a moment of magic by Fofana set up Clermont's second try.

The France centre took the ball outside the Montpellier 22, eyed up visiting scrum-half Julien Tomas then stepped up a gear and breezed past him before offloading the ball to fullback Jean-Marcellin Butin, who touched down in the corner.

Parra converted for 17-10.

Clermont were reduced to 14 men shortly before the break when veteran Nathan Hines was sin-binned but the visitors were unable to take advantage and it was the hosts who extended their lead to 23-13 by the time the Australia-born former Scottish international returned to the fray.

Parra made it 26-13 in the 54th minute leaving Montpellier head coach Fabien Galthie staring pensively at the ground - his frown deepened as the metronomic Parra converted another penalty for 29-13.

The visitors had fallen apart and their woes were compounded when Charles Geli was yellow-carded with 12 minutes remaining.

Clermont were shortly afterwards awarded a penalty try which Parra converted to take his points tally to 21 for the match with the visitors replying with a nicely worked try by replacement Benoit Paillaugue in the dying minutes.

Galthie cursed his side's inability to take their scoring chances - especially Bustos Moyano's success rate of 50 percent compared to Parra's 100 percent return - and said their opponents were simply too good.

"Each time they had a chance they took it and up front when they needed to impose themselves they did just that," said the former France captain.

"They are a complete team, they never looked worried, psychologically they never looked to be troubled."

Top 14 results:
Clermont 36 Montpellier 18
Grenoble 14 Castres 12
Perpignan 26 Bordeaux 16
Stade Francais 21 Bayonne 13
Biarritz 16 Agen 11

Standings (under headings played, won, drawn, lost, points for, against, bonus points, points):
Toulon 14 12 0 2 429 209 8 56
Clermont 15 12 0 3 381 248 5 53
Toulouse 14 10 0 4 397 263 6 46
Castres 14 9 1 4 325 250 5 43
Montpellier 15 9 0 6 336 306 5 41
Grenoble 14 9 0 5 307 293 2 38
Biarritz 15 8 0 7 289 290 4 36
Racing-Metro 14 6 0 8 253 254 6 30
Perpignan 14 6 0 8 320 345 5 29
Stade Francais 14 6 1 7 320 357 2 28
Bayonne 14 5 0 9 222 333 6 26
Agen 15 3 0 12 239 407 6 18
Bordeaux 14 3 0 11 261 331 6 18
Mont-de-Marsan 14 1 0 13 201 394 3 7

AFP

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