European Rugby Champions Cup 2014-15

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European Rugby Champions Cup
Four-try Clermont blow Sale off course
ESPN Staff
October 26, 2014
Report Match details
Date/Time: Oct 26, 2014, 16:15 local, 15:15 GMT
Venue: Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale Sharks
Half-time: 13 - 3
Tries: Abendanon, Nalaga 2, Rougerie
Cons: Lopez 3
Pens: Lopez 3
Pens: Cipriani
Camille Lopez is tackled by a Sale defender, Clermont Auvergne v Sale Sharks, European Rugby Champions Cup, Michelin stadium, Clermont-Ferrand, October 26, 2014
Clermont's Camille Lopez is tackled by a Sale defender
© Getty Images
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Sale suffered a second successive European Champions Cup defeat as French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne powered to an emphatic 35-3 victory at Stade Marcel Michelin.

An early try by Clermont's former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon put the home side in charge, before wing Napolioni Nalaga claimed two second-half touchdowns and substitute Aurelien Rougerie also scored, while fly-half Camille Lopez's 15-point haul kept his team firmly in Pool One contention.

Sale, though, have fallen off the quarter-final pace in a punishing group that also includes Saracens and Munster.

Fly-half Danny Cipriani scored their points through a first-half penalty, but the Sharks were mauled in the second period as Clermont posted 22 unanswered points.

Abendanon's score was created by centre Jonathan Davies, but he suffered a suspected shoulder injury in the process, which will be a major cause of concern for Wales coach Warren Gatland.

Davies' early exit comes just a fortnight before the opening autumn Test against Australia and less than 24 hours after another of Gatland's leading midfield players - Scarlets' Scott Williams - limped off with hamstring trouble during a Champions Cup clash against Leicester.

Sale showed one change from the side edged out by Munster eight days go, with scrum-half Will Cliff replacing Chris Cusiter as the Sharks targeted a first top-flight European victory on French soil since they won 32-15 at Clermont six years ago.

There were a handful of switches in the Clermont side, including starts for Davies and flanker Alexandre Lapandry, who featured among a reshuffled back-row due to Julien Bardy's absence after he was cited and suspended following last Saturday's defeat against Saracens.

Sale made a bright start as they looked to put pace and width on the ball, and there was little attacking menace shown by Clermont apart from a brilliant break by Lopez that Sharks defenders managed to thwart.

But Sale were then punished following an overthrown lineout inside Clermont's 22, as the home side broke away and superb approach work by Davies created a try for Abendanon that Lopez converted.

It was to be Davies' final act of the game, though, as he went off to be replaced by Rougerie, before Cipriani opened Sale's account through an 18th-minute penalty.

The visitors showed plenty of honest endeavour, while powerful centre Sam Tuitupou led their defensive effort, but two Lopez penalties in three minutes opened up a 10-point lead for Clermont.

Despite the couple of lapses that allowed Lopez his opportunities, it was largely a disciplined display by Sale, especially at the breakdown, where skipper David Seymour proved a consistent thorn in Clermont's side, and they remained in contention at half-time, trailing 13-3.

Sale began the second period in determined fashion, and they almost unlocked Clermont's defence when a superb Cipriani cross-kick found wing Tom Arscott, who was only denied a try by Abendanon's crunching tackle.

It provided further evidence of Sale's ability in open play, but they could make no further impression where it really counted on the scoreboard, and a third successful Lopez penalty put Clermont further ahead with just over 30 minutes remaining.

And Sale were then undone by a piece of individual brilliance by Fijian Nalaga, who scored his 24th top-flight European try after he weaved his way over from 30 metres out to effectively finish the game as a contest.

It left Clermont with plenty of time to press for two further tries and secure a five-point maximum in the process, but Sale creditably dug deep defensively until Nalaga unlocked them again by scoring a second try seven minutes from time.

And Rougerie had the final say, touching down late on to make their back-to-back clashes against Munster even more mouthwatering when the Champions Cup resumes in December.

Mike Delany touches down for a Clermont try © Getty Images
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