Clermont lay down the challenge

12th Nov 2007, 11:32

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Pivotal: Brock James supplied a try, four conversions and a penalty to Clermont's tally

Pivotal: Brock James supplied a try, four conversions and a penalty to Clermont's tally

Clermont Auvergne opened their Heineken cup campaign with an impressive 41-21 bonus point victory over the Scarlets at Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday.

Clermont Auvergne opened their Heineken cup campaign with an impressive 48-21 bonus-point victory over the Scarlets at Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday.

Last season's Challenge Cup winners made the step up to the top-flight of Europe with consummate ease and raced away to an early lead in a pulsating game.

Julien Bonnaire's try just after half-time wrapped up the bonus point before the Scarlets rallied with two tries in as many minutes.

But any hopes of a comeback were quashed soon after as Aurélien Rougerie completed his hat-trick and Brock James scored a well-earned try.

It seems fitting that this fine opening weekend of European rugby ended with a ten-try cracker packed with more action and adventure than a teenager's dream weekend.

Much was expected from the clash between these two attack-oriented sides and they didn't disappoint. Indeed, referee Chris White was reduced to a mere onlooker for all but the opening period as passes stuck and off-loads were collected.

But not even the Scarlets would complain about the final score - Clermont were deserving winners and must now be considered favourites to be crowned European champions come the end of May.

Whilst the Scarlets' take on free-flowing rugby looked laboured, Clermont's players were surely born to run with ball in hand - and they are mighty clever, too. James and Pierre Mignoni made all the right decisions behind an obedient pack and the backline made cunning use of the decoy-runner.

First points came early and from the back of collapsed scrum. The nod went the home side's way, and James made no mistake off the tee.

Stephen Jones then decided to maintain friendly relations with his former fan-base by pumping a kickable penalty into the corner. But, in a harbinger of things to come, the advantage was lost to some over-elaborate inter-passing in the wake of the line-out.

Anthony Floch, Clermont's long-range marksman, was the next man at the tee after Rougerie was molested off the ball, but his effort fell well short.

Yet the missed kick mattered not one wit. From the drop-out, Jones took an age before deciding to send out a long pass, and Rougerie collected the gift and galloped in for an opportune try. James added the extras and Clermont were 10-0 up with 16 minutes played.