Clermont winger Alvereti Raka (l) tries to avoid Chris Wyles (D) from Saracens on 11 December 2017 in London
Forgotten the controversy over the postponement, sluggishness in the Top 14 and the hecatomb at the opening: Clermont shined Monday night in London to end two years of European invincibility Saracens (46-14), thanks to six tests including a triplet of a Raka overflowing.
Defeat the reigning European champions, undefeated for 20 matches in the event (since the 2015 semi-final against Clermont), at home, in freezing cold, Clermont was crazy enough to believe and again more to do it.
Finally, the extra 24 hours spent in England following the postponement of the game because of the snow will have been nicely put to use by the Clermontois: a bonus, a revenge on the final of last spring and a benchmark performance for the rest of the winter. Above all, they take the lead in Group 2 and take a big step towards the quarter-finals.
Because even if the „Sarries“ go wrong at the moment, with five domestic defeats ranking in November and a cascade of injuries including stars Maro Itodje and Liam Williams, they are still a formidable machine.
But Clermont, on the European scene, is able to raise his level, as he had done in the first two days, winning the Ospreys (26-21) his first win away. Before beating with the bonus Northampton (24-7) to Marcel-Michelin.
Without his opener Camille Lopez, Patricio Fernandez and Luke McAlister, all injured, Franck Azéma had chosen to start the back Isaia Toeava in N.10. The New Zealander gave a decidedly offensive turn to a wild Clermont.
After ten minutes to the advantage of the Londoners, the Auvergnats kicked off their match, in the wake of an ultra-domineering scrum that saved them several times in hard times.
From the 14th minute, the untenable Penaud, tenured at the last minute after the lump sum of Lamerat, took the hole. Fofana further maneuvered across and crossed with Raka, who was the rest in power (7-0).
– Six tries –
Lee and Fofana, both in good spirits, put the „Sarries“ on the back and the clever Raka took the opportunity to sneak up a ruck for the second try (14-0, 21).
The ASM then pushed the nail on a combination in touch superbly executed: Parra pierced and offered the triplet test to Vaka (21-0, 26).
The European champions reacted in force with a penalty test on a maul. Lee received a yellow card (29) and 14 against 15, the „Jaunards“ suffered.
But in the hard, Vahaamina and Yato defended well, the first infiltrating into a maul to put in term (37), the second by flying a ball in his 22 meters (40), to spin at the break with a comfortable advance (24-7).
And then Raka folded the match. Served in his 22 meters, the winger threw himself into an incredible solitary raid, eliminating four defenders to finish with a pass after contact for Van der Merwe for the bonus test (31-7, 47).
Following another great collective action, Fofana scored a fifth try (60), transformed by Parra author of a 100% foot (7 of 7). The ASM maintained the pressure and Toeva then crossed the line at the very end of the match to perfect the score (78).
In the spring, the Saracens had won the title under the beard of the ASM, but in glacial conditions, it is the Auvergnats that flourish. To be confirmed in Clermont Sunday during the return match.