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Clermont 25 - Munster 19
Clermont victorious in European classic
This is what top level European rugby is about. Two top teams, almost at full strength battling it out to dominate a tight group? In a game televised throughout Europe in front of a full house. Typically the Munster faithful had travelled in grand numbers and this all added to an excellent atmosphere at the Stade Marcel Michelin.
The spectacle didn’t disappoint either. The level of impact at breakdown and tackle situation left you wondering whether the teams or the medical staff would be the more tired at the end of the game. Clermont started brightly but struggled to get any real advantage line breaks against a very well organised and streetwise defence. O’Gara and James exchanged penalties in the first half before the Reds started mixing up their play. Quinlan charged upfield, the ball was offloaded two or three times before they attacked blind sending in prop Marcus Horan for a winger’s try. The boot of Brock James coupled with Munster indiscipline at the breakdown meant that Clermont were still in touch at the break.
The home side flew out of the blocks in the second half though, and Munster, despite their experience didn’t really know how to deal with the varied and dynamic Clermont play. Time and time again they had to clear their lines before finally Brock James (later to be named Man of the Match) dummied and slid through a gap to score. Clermont were leading 25-16 before referee Barnes awarded a penalty which O’Gara converted to give the visitors a defensive bonus point. The aforementioned Barnes, it should be stated, had a good game and was more than responsible for the quality of the match on offer. So Clermont travel to Thomond Park next week well aware of the challenge that awaits them, and the rewards that victory could bring. One thing is guaranteed however, it should be an early Christmas cracker!!