Top 14 Champs Clermont bash Bourgoin

Defending French champions Clermont shrugged off their opening day loss to Perpignan with a disciplined second half showing at Bourgoin on Friday which brought a 25-12 victory.

With Perpignan, the side Clermont deprived last season at the wire to take their first title, going down to a 26-11 loss at Brive, Friday’s win tasted doubly good for Vern Cotter’s men.

Despite their woes in Perpignan, Clermont came into their second match of the new campaign knowing the omens augured well for them having muscled past Bourgoin in the latters’ first home encounter of both the past two seasons.

But the champions had to battle after Alberto Di Bernardo booted the hosts into an early lead.

Former Bourgoin favourite Morgan Parra levelled matters and then fired Clermont ahead before Di Bernardo sent the sides in level at 6-6 at the break.

Di Bernardo then produced another two unerring penalties to give Clermont work to do.

And it was only in the closing stages that Bourgoin’s resistence cracked, as Napolioni Nalaga, Alexandre Lapandry and Wesley Fofana went over for tries in quick succession to turn things around in the final ten minutes, handing Bourgoin another defeat after a poor showing against Stade Francais.

With Jonny Wilkinson’s injury-hit Toulon later in action at Biarritz, Stade and Bayonne are setting the early pace having both opened the campaign with back-to-back successes.

Stade whipped La Rochelle 41-26 on home turf while Bayonne – having already seen off Toulon for starters – steamrollered Agen 27-0.

Perpignan slumped to defeat against Brive in the absence of a trio fly-halves owing to a mixture of injury and sickness.

And although that gave France Under-20 international Gilles Bosch a chance to establish himself the challenge proved too great as Brive, spurred on by an opening home slip-up against Racing, stacked up a 17-point lead inside the opening 20 minutes.

Damien Browne went over for the opening try on 17 minutes and 120 seconds later Gerhard Vosloo followed after a surging 70-yard run.

Two Mathieu Belie conversions and a quartet of penalties rounded out a fine win with a Julien Candelon try and two Bosch penalties scant consolation.

“We turned in a top class first half but after the break it was a bit of a non-event,” said Brive co-coach Ugo Mola.

“I am happy but not entirely satisfied.”

Perpignan counterpart Jacques Brunel admitted: “We lost the match in the first half.” Castres face European champions Toulouse in Saturday’s sole encounter.

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