Thursday 8 December 2016

Clermont blow Saints away

Clermont 37 Northampton 5

Duncan Bech

Published 05/04/2015 | 02:30

Clermont's New Zealander flanker Fritz Lee (C) passes the ball to Clermont's French centre Wesley Fofana (R) during the European Rugby Champions Cup 1/4 final match between Clermont and Northampton on April 4, 2015 at the Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY ZOCCOLANTHIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP/Getty Images
Clermont's New Zealander flanker Fritz Lee (C) passes the ball to Clermont's French centre Wesley Fofana (R) during the European Rugby Champions Cup 1/4 final match between Clermont and Northampton on April 4, 2015 at the Michelin stadium in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. AFP PHOTO / THIERRY ZOCCOLANTHIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP/Getty Images
Clermont's New Zealander flanker Fritz Lee (C) runs with the ball during the European Rugby Champions Cup 1/4 final match between Clermont and Northampton
Clermont's Fidji winger Napolioni Nalaga runs with the ballduring the European Rugby Champions Cup 1/4 final match between Clermont and Northampton

Northampton were put to the sword by an impressive Clermont display at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.

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Just hours after Bath had succumbed to Leinster in Dublin, the reigning Aviva Premiership champions and runaway league leaders leaked four tries to their dazzling opponents, who had amassed a 27-0 lead by half-time.

Wing Noa Nakaitaci plundered a pair of touchdowns, while his France team-mate Wesley Fofana and former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon also crossed in a harrowing evening for England's strongest club.

Outhalf Brock James completed the rout by landing all four conversions and booting three penalties.

Every bit as impressive as the spellbinding Fofana was man of the match Abendanon, who ran amok in the Massif Central with a series of graceful runs that must have caught the eye of England selectors.

It took until the 68th minute for Northampton to register their only score through a try by Alex Waller, although the aftermath of the score was mired in controversy as the substitute prop then appeared to land a blow on John Ulugia as they wrestled on the floor. Saints' quarter-final preparations were hit by the loss of George North to concussion, but the presence of their giant Wales wing would have had little impact on a match dictated by Clermont's brutish pack and lit up by the ingenuity of their backs.

Clermont captain Damien Chouly was sin-binned for interfering at the breakdown and with a man down it took a forceful try-saving tackle from Abendanon to stop Saints from scoring from one move. Gaps still appeared in defence, however, and Waller strolled over, before taking exception to Ulugia falling on him in the act of scoring and retaliating.

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