Planet Rugby

Clermont march into Challenge Cup final

21st April 2007 14:22

Share:

Adam Black

That's a fine! Adam Black goes over for his try

Clermont Auvergne stormed into the final of the European Challenge Cup on Saturday with a convincing 46-29 win over the Dragons in France, in a terrific game of European rugby which should serve as a very real wake-up call to the suits trying their damnedest to rob of such spectacles.

There was a full stadium, blue skies, a cracking atmosphere on and off the pitch, and eleven tries from all manner of positions on the field. What more could you ask for?

Much of the Auvergne is a volcanic massif and it seemed for the first half hour that the Dragons had indeed found a comfy place to sleep. By contrast, the French erupted into the game with a performance every bit as red-hot as the magma that once scorched the hills and makes the region so verdant.

The hills were further scorched on Saturday under the glare of a blistering hot sun which ensured that referee Dave Pearson called for regular water breaks. It might have been the heat that put paid to Clermont's total dominance but for the first half hour, the French were untouchable.

They conceded not one single penalty until minute 33, by which time they were 27-5 ahead. Their lone mistake in any set piece had been a skew line-out throw, and where they had conceded no penalties, they had won eight. The movement in the backs was slick and threatening, the support was quick and clinical, and Pierre Mignoni's service was as good as it was all Six Nations for France. And as for the pack... twice the 'beast with sixteen legs' as the French have nick-named it rolled driving mauls more than 20 metres upfield. The Dragons pack had no answer - it really was where the game was won and lost.

The Dragons struggled everywhere in the first half hour though. They barely had any ball at all, and of the four scrums and six line-outs they did have, three scrums were lost to a variety of infringements, and three line-outs were stolen by Clermont.

Four of those eight Clermont penalties came in the first ten minutes, and two of them were goaled for an early 6-0 lead by the Top 14's leading scorer Brock James. At the fourth, the second in two minutes given for going in on the side, referee Pearson made his first threat to go to his pocket. It staunched the flow of penalties for a bit, but the flow of tries began instead.

The first came, very much against the run of play, from the visitors. Rhys Thomas did marvellously to turn over some midfield ball, and after Paul Emerick had broken the defensive line, Michael Owen did his link-man job to send Aled Brew scampering to the line.

Clermont's reply was devastating. They ran in three tries in seven minutes to make the score 27-5, and to add insult to injury, the Dragons saw flanker Jamie Ringer sent to the sin-bin for a repeated infringement.

The first try was born of a moment of magic by Fijian winger Vilimoni Delasau, whose chip and regather took him into the Dragons' 22 from inside his own half. Three quick phases later, Aurelien Rougerie tore through some tackles and jinked inside Kevin Morgan to go under the posts.

Then a Dragons line-out on their own 22 was overthrown straight to Michel Dieude, who wasted no time in charging to the line. He was stopped just short, but again, three quick phases later there was no stopping Argentinean number eight Gonzalo Longo on a pick and go.

The third was a tribute to the Clermont pack's dominance, once again picking off a Dragons line-out and then keeping the ball at close quarters before finally prop Thomas Domingo sneaked over. James converted all three tries, and the prognosis for the final scoreline was worrying for the Welsh.

There might have been another try for Rougerie had Aled Brew not clawed away a deft James chip bound for Rougerie's corner.

But Welsh teams do not lie down these days, and with nothing left to lose, the Dragons opened up and presented us with a feast of rugby. Finally the pack got some ball and forced a series of drives and penalties of their own near the Clermont line - one of which saw Emmanuel Etien sent to the bin.

The final penalty yielded a move which re-kindled memories of schoolboys on muddy pitches from long winters of yesteryear for those watching. Four Dragons forwards stood in a line with their backs to the Clermont line. The ball went to them from Gareth Cooper, and chargers charged at all angles before the line of four parted and let prop Adam Black juggernaut through both the gap and defence for a try. Black will also be fined, in the finest of post-match traditions, for his dive as he touched down.

Sweeney's conversion rounded off the scoring for the first half, and his chip started the scoring for the second half. It was not the best chip but it bounced horribly, causing Anthony Floch to lose his footing, and Aled Brew - whose brother Nathan had been carried from the field with a suspected broken ankle - pounced for his second. Sweeney made it 27-19, and the game had somehow become a close-run thing.

Clermont's pack took a hold again, and eventually the stretched Dragons defence could not stop Tony Marsh going over in the corner to make it 32-19, but moments later Kevin Morgan and Ringer combined to send lock Ian Gough galloping away down the left and make it 32-24.

The sun finally took its toll on the visitors, and Clermont's class came through in the final twenty minutes. Hooker Brice Miguel crashed over on the hour after Mignoni had orchestrated some exquisite forward pressure from his pack, and then the scrum-half capped a fine display by finishing off a fine pair of offloads from his charging flankers and making the game safe. James' conversions made it 46-24.

The Dragons had a final word of thanks for their fans, with Morgan breaking outside and Phil Dollman chipping and re-gathering for a score, rounding off a marvellous day for European Rugby. I wonder if those who would deny the clubs the right to govern their own tournaments were watching...

The scorers:

For Clermont:

Tries: Rougerie, Longo, Domingo, Marsh, Miguel, Mignoni

Cons: James 5

Pens: James 2

For the Dragons:

Tries: Aled Brew 2, Black, Gough, Dollman

Cons: Sweeney 2

Yellow cards: Ringer (Dragons, 25, repeated infringement), Etien (Clermont, 38, repeated infringement)

Clermont Auvergne: 15 Alexandre Peclier, 14 Aurélien Rougerie (c), 13 Grant Esterhuizen, 12 Tony Marsh, 11 Vilimoni Delasau, 10 Brock James, 9 Alessandro Troncon, 8 Gonzalo Longo, 7 Emmanuel Etien, 6 Michel Dieude, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 David Barrier, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Brice Miguel, 1 Thomas Domingo

Replacements: 16 Mario Ledesma, 17 Martin Scelzo, 18 Jamie Cudmore, 19 Elvis Vermeulen, 20 Pierre Mignoni, 21 Raphael Chanal, 22 Anthony Floch

The Dragons: 15 Kevin Morgan, 14 Gareth Wyatt, 13 Paul Emerick, 12 Nathan Brew, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Michael Owen, 7 Jamie Ringer, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Steve Jones, 1 Adam Black

Replacements: 16 Ben Daly, 17 Jamie Corsi, 18 Andrew Hall, 19 Nic Fitisemanu, 20 Alex Walker, 21 Aled Thomas, 22 Phil Dollman

Referee: David Pearson (England)

By Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, October 1
Hawkes Bay 36 - 14 WellingtonHawkes Bay vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411