REPORT | Clermont 49 Dragons 24
Clermont had swept all before them in the European Challenge Cup this season to top Pool 1 with an unbeaten and maximum points record – mirrored by home domestic form that has seen them sit at the summit of the Top14.
However, they did not have it all their own way in this entertaining Round 4 encounter as Dragons twice closed in and pushed late on for a try bonus point.
The French giants eventually emerged with the bonus point win with two late tries putting a gloss on the score line.
Dragons, though, can take plenty of heart from the performance as attention now switches to the festive calendar of Welsh derby games that starts with an away trip to Cardiff Blues on Friday evening.
Dragons - with Forwards Coach Ceri Jones in charge - made seven changes from the side that lost out to Northampton Saints the previous week.
Five Wales internationals were back involved and prop Aaron Jarvis recalled to face his former club.
Home flanker Judicael Cancoriet opened the scoring, with Scottish ace Greig Laidlaw converting, before fly half Josh Lewis hit back with a sweetly struck penalty.
Powerful Fiji international centre Apisai Naqalevu grabbed the second home try before Dragons hit back on 20 minutes with hooker Dee scoring his fourth European try of this campaign – he has now scored in all three appearances.
Clermont’s third try was awarded to Australian wing Peter Bentham, after consultation with the TMO, and flanker Cancoriet secured the try bonus after 33 minutes.
However, Dragons were to strike back on the stroke of half-time with Wales international Wainwright capping a superb opening half for the back row with his score cutting the lead to 28-17.
Clermont looked to ease clear with back row and captain Fritz Lee scoring try number five.
But a superb solo score from scrum half Williams, moments after coming off the bench, had Dragons again sensing they could mount a famous fight-back.
Ultimately the French hosts pulled clear with further scores from Naqalevu and replacement scrum half Charlie Cassang as Dragons showed plenty of late spirit were denied a fourth try.
05m Cancoriet t Laidlaw 7-0
13m Lewis p 7-3
19m Naqalevu t Laidlaw c 14-3
22m Dee t Lewis c 14-10
28m Bentham t Laidlaw c 21-10
33m Concoriet t Laidlaw c 28-10
39m Wainwright t Lewis c 28-17
46m Lee t Laidlaw c 35-17
66m R Williams t Lewis c 35-24
70m Naqalevu t Laidlaw c 42-24
77m Cassang t Laidlaw c 49-24
Dragons: Zane Kirchner, Adam Warren, Tyler Morgan (J Williams 62), Jack Dixon, Hallam Amos, Josh Lewis, Tavis Knoyle (R Williams 61); Ryan Bevington (Ellis 62), Elliot Dee (Lawrence 71), Aaron Jarvis (Thomas 71), Brandon Nansen (Moriarty 66 (Taylor 76)), Matthew Screech, Cory Hill, Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty (Benjamin 59)
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Gerard Ellis, Nicky Thomas, Huw Taylor, James Benjamin, Rhodri Williams, Gavin Henson, Jordan Williams
ASM Clermont Auvergne: Isaia Toeava (Penaud 11 (Fernandez 24)), Peter Betham, Apisai Naqalevu, Wesley Fofana, Remy Grosso (Cassang 61), Camille Lopez, Greig Laidlaw; Loni Uhila (Falgoux 62), Yohan Beheregaray (Ulugia 47), Michael Simutoga (Falatea 47), Paul Jedrasiak (Timani 47), Sebastien Vahaamahina, Arthur Iturria, Judicael Cancoriet, Fritz Lee (Lemardelet 59)
Replacements: John Ulugia, Etienne Falgoux, Sipili Falatea, Sitaleki Timani, Maxence Lemardelet, Charlie Cassang, Patricio Fernandez, Damian Penaud
Referee: Tom Foley (Eng)