Top 14 newcomers Oyonnax stun Clermont

Top 14 newboys Oyonnax produced a stunning performance at home to shock last season’s Heineken Cup finalists Clermont 30-19 on Saturday.

Oyonnax’s win, in what was their first ever home match in the top tier, extended their unbeaten run at the Charles-Mathon Stadium to 24 matches.

Clermont’s experienced Australian fly-half Brock James said that the physical nature of Oyonnax’s opening exchanges had rattled him and his team-mates.

“They got on top of us in the opening 20 minutes because of their physicality,” said James, whose future at Clermont looked uncertain when coach Vern Cotter criticised him as a player who went into hiding when things got tough in big matches.

“We were unable to put into action our game strategy and made errors but we showed some mettle in the second-half.”

The hosts, who opened their campaign last weekend with a 39-11 defeat by Bayonne, put the visitors, who had won their opener 22-18 against Biarritz, under pressure from the start, capitalising on a plethora of mistakes by their shaky looking opponents.

Their pressure paid off with two tries in five minutes.

Prop Jody Jenneker sneaked down the blindside to touch down in the 25th minute while five minutes later fullback Florian Denos finished off an 80-metre counter-attack which began when a misplaced pass by James was kicked upfield by Oyonnax’s Ivory Coast international Silvere Tian.

Oyonnax’s fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta converted both tries and added two penalties for good measure to give them a 20-0 half-time lead against a side that lacked the spark it showed throughout most of last season under Cotter before imploding in both the European Cup final against Toulon and then the Top 14 semi-finals losing to eventual champions Castres.

Clermont, who had been fore-warned of Oyonnax’s qualities after losing a pre-season match 23-14, clawed their way back into the match with three penalties by James and a try by Gerhard Vosloo to make it 23-14 –Urdapilleta had converted a penalty of his own — after 56 minutes.

Clermont’s hopes of turning the match completely on its’ head ended though 13 minutes from time when backrow forward Valentin Ursache went over for their third try which was also converted.

Clermont, who will lose Cotter at the end of the season when he leaves for the Scotland job, scored a consolation try right on the final whistle by centre Benson Stanley but even that was not enough to get them a defensive bonus point.

Friday’s game had seen Toulon, beaten Top 14 finalists last season, hammer big-spending rivals Racing-Metro 41-14 with veteran fly-half Jonny Wilkinson supplying 16 points and playing a hand in three of Toulon’s five tries.

The weekend’s action is rounded off later on Saturday with the remaining five games, among them champions Castres hosting Grenoble.

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