Classy Clermont too good for Tigers
December 11, 2011
Clermont winger Julien Malzieu touches down for a try at the Stade Marcel Michelin
© Getty Images
Clermont Auvergne climbed to the top of Pool 4 in this season's Heineken Cup with a 30-12 victory over Leicester in a fiery clash at the Stade Marcel Michelin.
The Top 14 giants produced a powerful display to silence a Tigers side that had led early in the game thanks to a try from scrum-half Ben Youngs but ultimately failed to match the home side's impressive blend of brute force and flair. A first half try from winger Julien Malzieu and the boot of scrum-half Morgan Parra gave Les Jaunards' a deserved lead at the break with a brace from centre Wesley Fofana and the outstanding game management of fly-half Brock James putting the result beyond the visitors.
Leicester's frustration resulted in yellow cards for hooker George Chuter and centre Manu Tuilagi, on his return to action after seven weeks out with a broken cheek bone, and while they fought back to claim a penalty try, their failure to secure even a losing bonus point will crank up the pressure ahead of the return fixture next weekend.
In a highly-charged atmosphere, tempers threatened to boil over after just two minutes when lock Julien Pierre was sent sprawling at a lineout on the Leicester 22 and Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra punished the Tigers with his first penalty of the game. There were positive signs for the Tigers with a big scrum soon after but the penalty proved to be just out of No.10 Toby Flood's range.
The whistle continued to dominate proceedings but it could not save Clermont on the quarter hour as Leicester notched the opening try. The hosts, unbeaten at home for two years, looked set to extend their lead as they pressed deep inside Tigers territory but an attempted chip ahead from James was charged down by No.8 Steve Mafi to spark a sweeping counter attack. Clermont scrambled but Manu Tuilagi was able to strip the ball away before feeding Youngs who scampered down the touchline to score. The angle accounted for Flood's conversion but Parra had no such trouble midway through the half as he notched his second penalty to edge his side ahead once more.
Leicester were not short of ambition with their adventure rewarded with another penalty that Flood sent to the corner for the lineout where the ball was retained only for a forward pass to gift possession back to Clermont.
The Tigers' indiscipline allowed Clermont to extend their advantage on the half hour mark and Parra chipped his latest effort through the posts before referee Alain Rolland issued a warning to both captains about the amount of infringements around the ruck. The warning failed to hit home with the Tigers who were guilty of coming in from the side at the next breakdown to hand their rivals a superb attacking platform but they redeemed themselves moments later by muscling up when it mattered most.
Having lost loose-head Lionel Faure just before kick off with a knee injury, Clermont found themselves without both starting props before the break with tight-head David Zirakashvili joining him on the sidelines. But they took the blow in their stride to notch a crucial try to the delight of the home crowd. A high kick into the 22 put winger Alesana Tuilagi and when he failed to lay claim to the ball, Fofana and Parra combined to put Malzieu over for the score. Parra slotted the extras and the referee's whistle was ringing in the Tigers' ear as they headed into the break.
A scrum penalty after the re-start gave Leicester the chance to set the tone for the second half and Flood wasted no time in sending it to the corner for the lineout but the gamble failed to pay off in the face of some stern resistance.
That frustration soon boiled over with Chuter yellow carded for a high tackle on Parra and he was joined in the sin-bin by Manu Tuilagi who was given his marching orders for a dangerous challenge on prop Vincent Debaty. Parra missed the subsequent penalty but it was then only a matter of time before Clermont made their numbers pay. A strong run from Malzieu would lay the platform for Fofana to score from close range with Parra adding the extras.
The Tigers injected some fresh legs but it did little to change the pattern of the game and it was Clermont who kept the scoreboard ticking over. Centre Aurelien Rougerie showed good strength to drive Leicester back into their 22 before a delicate chip through from James fell perfectly for an on-rushing Fofana who dotted down for his second try.
Parra's simple conversion heaped further woe on Leicester but to their credit they rallied with Clermont No.8 Julien Bonnaire sin-binned for his attempts to stem the tide. A penalty try swiftly followed after a powerful surge from the Tigers' pack was derailed illegally with Flood adding the conversion. Bonus points were the driving force for both sides as the game entered the closing stages but neither side could deliver leaving Clermont the clear winners of a fiercely contested tie.
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