REPORT | DRAGONS 7 CLERMONT 49
The French giants – currently top of Pool 1 and the Top14 – arrived in Newport undefeated in over three months and showcased all their skills as they raced to a bonus point inside half an hour.
France international wing Remi Grosso led the way with a try brace as Clermont opened up a commanding 35-0 lead.
Battling Dragons refused to back down and a spirited second half display saw them go close on several occasions before Jordan Williams grabbed a deserved late score.
Dragons made ten changes from the side that defeated Timisoara with prop Brok Harris making his 100thappearance for the region.
Clermont also made several changes, but still named a side packed of international talent and impressed from the kick-off.
They threatened early on with scrum half Charlie Cassang going close but losing control of the ball under pressure as he looked to go over.
Jason Tovey looked to respond and unlock the Clermont defence with a kick for Zane Kirchner to chase before Harri Keddie and skipper Richard Hibbard unloaded big hits.
Clermont scored the opening try when they took advantage of a dropped pass in midfield, with fly half Pato Fernandez picking up the loose ball and racing over from halfway.
The free-flowing French side looked set to score again, after Nick Abendanon released Peter Betham, but he was hauled down just.
However, the home side were still a man down as Wainwright was yellow carded for offside.
Ruthless Clermont took full advantage of the numerical advantage as quick hands released Alex Fischer before more neat play from the forwards sent Paul Jedrasiak over.
The bonus point was duly wrapped up when more relentless pressure saw Grosso use his strength to power over under the posts and Fernandez converted.
The alert Warren raced back to intercept, after Naqalevu broke from inside his own half, but there was no stopping Grosso when he intercepted a pass out wide and darted in.
Clermont were reduced to 14 men just before the break, as lock Jedrasiak was yellow carded after persistent infringements.
But Dragons failed with two lineouts from five metres out as the visitors took a big lead into the break.
The home side started the second half well but another lineout was lost close to the line before Jared Rosser kicked in behind and forced a rare error from Abendanon.
The home scrum was also enjoying some dominance as Clermont creaked in the pack in the opening minutes of the second half.
However, when the backs got possession they used the ball and went wide with pace for Peter Betham, top scorer in the competition, to crash over on the hour.
Dragons threatened a score as a huge scrum forced Clermont off their own ball and replacement Rhodri Davies picked up and darted down the shortside before Keddie was stopped short.
And when Dragons did get over the line, some last gasp defending saw Rosser held up.
Moments later a break up field saw lock Jedrasiak grab his second of the night to put gloss on the polished French performance.
However, the final word did go to Dragons as huge pressure from the forwards sucked men in before the hosts went wide and Hallam Amos sent Jordan Williams over.
10m Fernandez t Fernandez c 0-7
14m Fischer t Fernandez c 0-14
17m Jedrasiak t Fernandez c 0-21
24m Grosso t Fernandez c 0-28
32m Grosso t Fernandez c 0-35
59m Betham t Fernandez c 0-42
75m Jedrasiak t Fernandez c 0-49
78m J. Williams t Lewis c 7-49
Dragons: Zane Kirchner (J. Williams 60), Jared Rosser, Adam Warren, Jarryd Sage, Hallam Amos, Jason Tovey (Lewis 60), Rhodri Williams (Davies 63); Brok Harris (Suter 60), Richard Hibbard (Lawrence 24-34, 60), Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech (Taylor 66), Harrison Keddie, Aaron Wainwright, Ollie Griffiths (Benjamin 66)
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Dan Suter, Chris Coleman, Huw Taylor, James Benjamin, Rhodri Davies, Josh Lewis, Jordan Williams
ASM Clermont Auvergne: Nick Abendanon (Levernhe 71), Peter Betham, George Moala, Apisai Naqalevu, Remy Grosso (Vili 53), Pato Fernandez, Charlie Cassang (Viallard 63); Beka Kakabadze (Uhilia 33), Benjamin Kayser (Beheregaray 49), Sipili Falatea (Simutoga 49), Paul Jedrasiak, Flip Van Der Merwe (Van Tonder 55), Julien Ruaud, Alexandre Fischer (Lemardelet 58), Damien Chouly
Replacements: Yohan Beheregaray, Loni Uhilia, Mickael Simutoga, Jacobus Van Tonder, Maxence Lemardelet, Kevin Viallard, Dorian Lavernhe, Tani Vili
Referee: Ian Tempest (Eng)