Clermont keep Harlequins winless in Heineken Cup

French Top 14 Club Clermont Auvergne held on to their unbeaten status at home when they beat Harlequins 23-16 in the Heineken Cup at Stade Marcel Michelin.

Clermont have now gone 65 matches unbeaten at their home venue. Having lost 13-9 in Paris last week Clermont have now won one and lost one.

Last week Harlequins lost 26-33 at home to the Scarlets so after two matches they are still without a win but they did take a losing bonus point from both matches.

This week’s losing bonus point came in the 81st minute when Nick Evans kicked a drop goal so that Quins finished within 7 points.

Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins put up a brave fight against last season’s finalists Clermont
Auvergne 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 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 knock-out 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 Regan 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 Television Match Official Marshall Kilgore checked for a forward pass,
but Clermont were given the green light.

James missed a second conversion from an acute angle, but Nick 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 offloaded 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 advantag

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