Clermont Auvergne 23-16 Harlequins, Heineken Cup
Clermont overcome spirited Harlequins
October 20, 2013
Sitiveni Sivivatu was a constant menace for Harlequins
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Clermont Auvergne have continued their unbeaten run of games at home after beating Harlequins 23-16 at the Stade Marcel Michelin on Sunday.
Conor O'Shea's men put up a brave fight against last season's finalists and were rewarded with Tom Williams' try on the stroke of half-time. But the damage had already been done for the Aviva Premiership outfit in central France as first-half tries from Lee Byrne, Wesley Fofana and Thierry Lacrampe handed Clermont a much-needed 23-16 win - but no valuable bonus point.
And, although Nick Evans scored a drop goal with the final kick of the game to give his team-mates a deserved losing bonus point, the writing is on the wall for Quins because no team has qualified for the knockout stages of the competition following two opening losses.
Quins director of rugby O'Shea, furious following last weekend's opening home 33-26 defeat to the Scarlets, described the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin as a 'coliseum' and no wonder as Clermont had not tasted defeat here in European competition for 1,429 days.
With Morgan Parra banned, Brock James took over the kicking duties and the fly-half confidently fired Clermont into a third-minute lead courtesy of a routine penalty. Considering the hosts' previous result in this pool - a 13-9 loss to Racing Metro - there was always going to be a reaction from the French giants and that came in the form of a fast start.
The home side, with a point to prove, grabbed their first try in the eighth minute when Welshman Byrne dived over in the left corner from Julien Pierre's short pass. Quins' number eight Tom Guest, forcing Nick Easter to move to the second row, slowed down the first wave of Clermont's attack. But it was not enough as Lacrampe and Regan King combined to feed Pierre wide on the left flank and with Clermont team-mates queuing up on the far touchline, Byrne had a simple finish.
James crashed his conversion attempt against the woodwork, but Quins responded when Ben Botica scored a 13th-minute penalty to trim the deficit to five points. Yet the visitors could not cope with the dancing feet of King and the Clermont centre played a key role in the home side's second score at the end of the first quarter.
After King made inroads, Sitiveni Sivivatu fed James on the left wing and his inside pass allowed Fofana to burst through, brush off two tacklers including Mike Brown and touchdown. The TMO, Marshall Kilgore, checked for a forward pass but Clermont were given the green light.
James missed a second conversion from an acute angle, but Evans added a 24th-minute penalty to drag Quins back to 13-6. Yet Quins simply could not cope with the quality of Clermont's backline as Vern Cotter's men quickly added a third score.
Another lightning move saw Sivivatu fend off Evans and step inside Paul Sackey to set up Byrne who off-loaded for scrum-half Lacrampe. The TMO was called into action once again, but Irish official George Clancy was told by fellow countryman Kilgore he could award the try as Lacrampe crossed before the last-ditch tackle by Botica.
Quins were given a lifeline when Byrne was yellow carded in the 28th minute yet the English side could not take any advantage on the scoreboard. But, within 60 seconds, the Londoners through Williams were back in the contest.
Forwards Will Collier and captain Chris Robshaw carried well in the build-up and Care, Evans and Brown all combined with the full-back's one-handed basketball style pass out to Williams deemed okay for the winger to score in the corner. Evans added the conversion and Quins went into the half-time interval with some much-needed momentum.
James scored a second penalty four minutes after the re-start to put Clermont 10 points clear. Evans missed a 61st-minute penalty, but a scrappy second period ended with the All Blacks fly-half scoring a fine drop goal as Quins remain bottom of the table.
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