MUNSTER’S hopes of making the knock-out stages of the inaugural European Champions Cup were severely dented when Clermont Auvergne stunned the home side 16-9 before a capacity attendance at Thomond Park on Saturday night.
Munster failed to match Clermont’s physicality and intensity, especially in the first half and crucially the visitors managed to convert their superiority into points to become the first French side to win at the Limerick venue.
Two tries in the opening quarter from man-of-the-match Fritz Lee and Wesley Fofana saw the physically dominant visitors take command. Out-half Camille Lopez added a penalty and drop goal to make it 16-6 at half-time.
Munster did get within seven points in the second period with a third penalty goal from Ian Keatley. However, the home side were unable to unlock Clermont’s impressive defence.
Munster, who have slipped to third place in Pool 1 behind new leaders Clermont Auvergne and Saracens, who defeated Sale, travel to the Stade Marcel Michelin for the return game on Sunday, December 14 at 3.15pm Irish time.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Gerhard van den Heever, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Paul O’Connell, Dave Foley, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Sean Dougall, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Johne Murphy.
CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Nick Abendanon; Noa Nakaitaci, Aurélien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Napolioni Nalaga; Camille Lopez, Ludovic Radoslavjevic; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Clément Ric, Jamie Cudmore, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly (capt), Julien Bonnaire, Fritz Lee. Replacements: John Ulugia, Vincent Debaty, Davit Zirakashvili, Julien Pierre, Alexandre Lapandry, Thierry Lacrampe, Brock James, Jonathan Davies.
REFEREE: Wayne Barnes (England)