Clermont held onto second place in the Top 14 standings on Saturday with a hard-fought 36-18 win at home to Montpellier.
Clermont held onto second place in the Top 14 standings on Saturday with a hard-fought 36-18 win over Montpellier at Parc Des Sports Marcel Michelin.
The result keeps les Jaunards hot on the heals of league leaders Toulon, who host Racing Metro on Sunday, but victory did not come easily against a Montpellier side playing with confidence and ambition.
The win also stretches Clermont's unbeaten record on home soil to 53 games in all competitions.
Clermont led 20-13 at the break thanks largely to centre Wesley Fofana, who scored one try and created another for full-back Jean Marcellin Buttin in reply to Montpellier prop Maximiliano Bustos's score-opening try in the third minute.
Despite starting the second period with 14 men, after Nathan Hines saw yellow for pulling down a maul, the hosts turned the screw after the break with Morgan Parra doing the damage from the kicking tee.
The dominance of the Clermont scrum put the result beyond doubt in the closing minutes as referee Jean-Luc Rebollal punished the visiting front row with a penalty try.
However a late try from Montpellier replacement scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue ensured that a bonus point for victory by three tries was out of reach for Clermont.
Montpellier, who have not won in 12 visits to Clermont and conceded 34 points on average, will remain in the top six regardless of results later on Saturday.
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.
Montpellier coach Fabian 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.”
Tries: Fofana, Buttin, Penalty try
Cons: Parra 3
Pens: Parra 4
Yellow card: Hines
Tries: Bustos, Paillaugue
Con: Bustos Moyano
Pens: Bustos Moyano 2
Yellow card: GÃ©li
Clermont: 15 Jean Marcellin Buttin, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra , 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Benoit Cabello, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Jamie Cudmore, 19 Elvis Vermeulen, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 David Skrela, 22 Regan King, 23 Daniel Kotze.
Montpellier: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Yohann Artru, 13 Matthew Carraro, 12 Paul Bosch, 11 Martin Bustos Moyano, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 John Beattie, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Alikisio Fakate, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Erasmus Jansen van vuuren, 1 Yvan Watremez,
Replacements: 16 Charles Geli, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Mickael De marco, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Santiago Fernandez, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Barry Faamausili.