Du Preez try not enough as Clermont edge Sale
MATCH REPORT: ASM Clermont Auvergne grind out a 25-19 victory over Sale Sharks in the Champions Cup on Sunday – keeping their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage alive.
The two teams crossed for three tries apiece in the first half of the Pool A clash at Stade Marcel-Michelin, but largely cancelled each other out in the second period until two decisive penalties from Clermont’s Morgan Parra.
A chaotic opening five minutes saw dropped balls from both sides, but Sale ultimately took the lead as lock Jean-Luc du Preez went over following a rumbling maul.
But Clermont would hit back on 12 minutes through Fritz Lee – the No.8 picked the perfect line 20 metres out to stride over the line and dot down.
The hosts would then take the lead as Damian Penaud, lining up at centre, showcased his electric pace to burst into the Sale half and feed winger Alivereti Raka, who jogged over the line to score on 22 minutes.
Momentum would swing in Sale’s favour once more, though, with winger Thomas Roebuck gathering to dot down on 25 minutes after a nudge through by centre Robert du Preez and a tremendous offload from Tom Curry.
The visitors went over again as prop Bevan Rodd squirmed through the Clermont defence on 32 minutes, but the two sides would go into the break level as Penaud dived onto a clever nudge in behind by the TOP 14 outfit’s fly-half Camille Lopez.
It proved to be a double blow for Sale as fullback Luke James was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on in the build-up, but they would survive the period with 14 men at the start of the second half.
In what proved to be an error-strewn remainder of the game, Clermont’s introduction of veteran Parra from the bench was the defining moment.
The 33-year-old held his nerve to slot two penalties either side of the 70 minute mark, with Sale unable to register any further points.
There are huge Round 4 games for the two teams next weekend – Sale welcome Ospreys while Clermont travel to Ulster.
Tries: Lee, Raka, Penaud;
Cons: Lopez 2
Pens: Parra 2
For Sale Sharks
Tries: JL du Preez, Roebuck, Rodd;
Cons: R du Preez 2
Clermont: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Marvin O’Connor, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 George Moala, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Judicaël Cancoriet (captain), 6 Jacobus Van Tonder, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Thibaud Lanen, 3 Cristian Ojovan, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Daniel Bibi Biziwu
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Lucas Dessaigne, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 23 Tani Vili
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Thomas Roebuck, 13 Robert du Preez, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Simon Hammersley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jean-Luc du Preez, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Fergus Warr, 22 Sam James, 23 Aaron Reed
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Dan Carson (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)