Planet Rugby

Streetwise Clermont take control

16th January 2010 17:26

Share:

Brock James kick v Ospreys

Brock James: Kept Clermont's scoreboard ticking over

Clermont weathered an early storm from the Ospreys to win 27-7 on Saturday and assume a commanding position in the Heineken Cup Pool Three.

Scintillating early breaks from the Ospreys back-line gave the locals cause for concern, not least when Lee Byrne's fabulous angled run handed a try to Tommy Bowe.

But the French shut up shop effectively, starving the Welsh of tidy set-piece ball and piling on the pressure, with Brock James landing three penalties and a drop goal to give his side the advantage in a classic game of Heineken Cup rugby.

Then on the hour mark the Ospreys finally cracked, with the unfortunate Byrne spilling a high ball and Julien Malzieu capitalising on the error to steam home for the game-clinching try.

Clermont still sit third in the pool, but play whipping boys Viadana next week while their main rivals Leicester and the Ospreys will be knocking lumps out of each other in Swansea. They should be able to do enough to clinch the pool - certainly they are in the right form.

Credit to the Ospreys, they stayed in the match - one of those ones where the phrase 'Test match intensity' reared its head more than once in the passing touchline comments - until Malzieu's try. Thereafter it was damage limitation, with even that performed well but rarely did they look like stealing a comeback score.

Instead, as the time ticked away and the Ospreys' efforts became more and more tired, Dan Biggar's long pass was picked off by Napolioni Nalaga for a score that probably was justified in terms of Clermont's overall superiority.

But for a while, that superiority and end result was a distant dream from the goings-on at the Marcel Michelin. Lee Byrne took a fine angle on the Ospreys' first possession and had Tommy Bowe not tripped over his own feet when stretching to take the pass, the Ospreys could have been over the whitewash within 60 seconds.

Four minutes later, Anthony Floch gave watching French coach Marc Lièvremont a timely reminder of his counter-attacking skills, breaking the Opsreys' line from his own 22 and scorching up to halfway before hoofing the ball ahead. His chase was quick enough, as was Nikki Walker's, but Nalaga was a different speed again, making it first to the ball but just nudging it forward with his hand as he dived for it.

That was a microcosm of the first half, with both sides willing to run and a delightful ebb and flow to it at times. It was the Ospreys who struck first, with an equally delightful try.

Byrne once again took an angle so acute it was almost diagonally back inside, slicing the Clermont defensive line and feeding Bowe with a long pass. There was no stumble this time and Biggar made it 7-0 with the conversion.

The Ospreys were on the front foot and, four minutes later, came within inches of doubling their try count.

Ricky Januarie stole the ball from Nalaga in his own 22 and the scrum-half was set to dive for the try-line only for Seremaia Bai to intervene with superb saving tackle.

This was where Clermont played it clever. With the Ospreys threatening from set-piece ball, Clermont simply gave them none to play with. James kicked down the lines rather than over them, with an effective chase pattern ensuring no counter-attacks. The scrum upped its game and the Welsh found it too hard to cope. With that platform gone, the Welsh were negated.

Brock James reduced the deficit to 7-3 with a routine penalty after Byrne failed to release as a pulsating opening period drew to a close.

Clermont piled on the pressure and, although James' knocked on with the line at his mercy, the Australian fly-half added a second penalty after the Ospreys conceded a penalty in the scrum under their own posts.

The French outfit spurned the chance to take the lead for the first time when James' penalty struck the left-hand upright following Jerry Collins' high tackle on Elvis Vermeulen.

Moments later, Alun Wyn Jones was penalised by English referee Dave Pearson for killing the ball and James made amends to hand Clermont a deserved advantage.

But the Top 14 leaders were not content and James' deft drop goal on the stroke of half-time nudged the home side 12-7 ahead at the interval.

Clermont wasted a golden opportunity to edge further clear in the 48th minute when James pulled his penalty to the right of the posts.

Biggar and James missed penalties before Malzieu struck the killer blow shortly after the hour mark.

Byrne failed to deal with James' high up and under and Aurelien Rougerie spotted the unmarked wing Malzieu who galloped home.

James missed the conversion - the third time he struck the posts - and the Ospreys were in deep trouble.

To compound the visitors' misery, Adam Jones was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away and James notched his fourth penalty before Nalaga sealed victory for Clermont with three minutes remaining.

The scorers:

For Clermont:
Tries: Malzieu, Nalaga
Con: James
Pens: James 4
Drop goal: James

For the Ospreys:
Try: Bowe
Con: Biggar

Yellow card: Adam Jones (Ospreys, 67, collapsing a maul)

Clermont: 15 Anthony Floch, 14 Napolioni Nalaga, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Seremaïa Bai, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Elvis Vermeulen, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Martin Scelzo, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Alexandre Audebert, 21 Kevin Senio, 22 Brent Russell, 23 Gonzalo Canale.

Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Sonny Parker, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Nikki Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Ryan Jones (capt), 7 Marty Holah, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jonathan Thomas, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Ian Gough, 20 Filo Tiatia, 21 Jamie Nutbrown, 22 James Hook, 23 Shane Williams.

Referee: David Pearson (England)
Television match official: Brian Stirling (Ireland)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 18
Harlequins vs LeicesterHarlequins vs Leicester Preview
Saturday , April 19
Exeter vs SaleExeter vs Sale Preview
Bath vs WorcesterBath vs Worcester Preview
Wasps vs GloucesterWasps vs Gloucester Preview
Sunday , April 20
Northampton vs London IrishNorthampton vs London Irish Preview
Newcastle vs SaracensNewcastle vs Saracens Preview
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 18
Glasgow vs UlsterGlasgow vs Ulster Preview
Saturday , April 19
Zebre vs EdinburghZebre vs Edinburgh Preview
Connacht vs MunsterConnacht vs Munster Preview
Sunday , April 20
Cardiff Blues vs ScarletsCardiff Blues vs Scarlets Preview
Newport Gwent D'gons vs OspreysNewport Gwent D
More RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , April 18
Castres vs MontpellierCastres vs Montpellier Preview
Saturday , April 19
Oyonnax vs Toulouse14:55
Perpignan vs Toulon17:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Clermont AuvergneRacing Metro Paris vs Clermont Auvergne Preview
Biarritz vs Brive18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles20:35
More Top 14 fixtures
Super Rugby
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs CrusadersChiefs vs Crusaders Preview
Waratahs vs BullsWaratahs vs Bulls Preview
Sharks vs CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Preview
Stormers vs LionsStormers vs Lions Preview
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
RaboDirect PRO12
Friday , April 18
Leinster 62 - 7 Benetton TrevisoLeinster vs Benetton Treviso Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 39 - 20 BluesHurricanes vs Blues Report
Melbourne Rebels 22 - 16 Western Force
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , April 13
Saracens 28 - 24 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Irish 40 - 12 NewcastleLondon Irish vs Newcastle Report
Saturday , April 12
Worcester 33 - 38 ExeterWorcester vs Exeter Report
Leicester 27 - 15 WaspsLeicester vs Wasps Report
Gloucester 17 - 18 BathGloucester vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Benetton Treviso 45 - 27 Newport Gwent D'gonsBenetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D
Munster 5 - 22 GlasgowMunster vs Glasgow Report
Scarlets 27 - 20 ZebreScarlets vs Zebre Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 22 ToulonBordeaux-Begles vs Toulon Report
Perpignan 22 - 12 Oyonnax
Toulouse 16 - 9 BriveToulouse vs Brive Report
Racing Metro Paris 37 - 7 Biarritz
Grenoble 30 - 36 Montpellier
Bayonne 24 - 19 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Super Rugby
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , April 11
Sale Sharks 12 - 27 HarlequinsSale Sharks vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
RaboDirect PRO12
Ulster 58 - 12 ConnachtUlster vs Connacht Report
Ospreys 25 - 19 LeinsterOspreys vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 22 - 29 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More RaboDirect PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens1976
2Northampton1966
3Leicester Tigers1963
4Bath1959
5Harlequins1954