European Rugby Champions Cup: Clermont Auvergne 35-3 Sale

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Nick Abendanon scores the first try for Clermont as they beat Sale
Clermont try scorer Nick Abendanon moved to France from Bath in the summer
Clermont (13) 35
Tries: Abendanon, Nalaga 2, Rougerie Cons: Lopez 3 Pens: Lopez 3
Sale (3) 3
Pens: Cipriani

Sale were overpowered as Clermont Auvergne clicked into gear in the second half to earn a European Rugby Champions Cup bonus point.

The hosts took an early lead through former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon.

Danny Cipriani kicked Sale's only points but two Camille Lopez penalties gave the hosts a 13-3 interval lead.

Napolioni Nalaga plundered two tries to see Clermont pull away and home legend Aurelien Rougerie scored from halfway to secure the four-try bonus point.

With three of last year's semi-finalists alongside the Sharks in Pool One the Salford-based side were always going to be big outsiders to qualify, and with a solitary point from two games the knock-out stages look impossible now.

They enjoyed some good moments, with David Seymour a constant menace at the breakdown, but ultimately the hosts had too much power and class.

Fly-half Cipriani, playing his first game since being left out of the England squad, mixed lovely touches with a couple of careless mistakes, but along with the rest of his side he was powerless to prevent the Clermont onslaught after the break.

Despite trailing by 10 points at the interval Sale were competitive in the first half and it took a poor throw at the line-out - far from the last unfortunately for the visitors - to spark Clermont into life.

Wales centre Jonathan Davies - who immediately went off with a reported shoulder injury - chipped and regathered before feeding Abendanon, who scooted down the line and produced a piston-like hand-off on Sale scrum-half Will Cliff to score.

Lopez, 25, converted and added two penalties after Cipriani's solitary reply for Sale as the hosts edged clear.

After the break Clermont grew more dominant by the minute and added a second try when the giant Nalaga claimed Lopez's cross-kick and stepped inside two covering defenders to score.

The Fijian powerhouse added a second with 10 minutes remaining after a flowing passing move and, with the passionate home fans demanding a fourth try, the 34-year-old Rougerie dummied on halfway, handed off Tom Arscott and outpaced the Sale defence to score in the corner.

Clermont Auvergne: Abendanon; Nakaitaci, Davies, Fofana, Nalaga; Lopez, Radosavljevic, Domingo, Kayser, Ric, Cudmore, Jacquet, Bonnaire, Lapandry, Lee.

Replacements: Rougerie for Davies (16), Debaty for Domingo (54), Kotze for Ric (70), Vahaamahina for Cudmore (54).

Not Used: Paulo, Kolelishvili, Lacrampe, James.

Sale: Haley; Brady, Leota, Tuitupou, Arscott; Cipriani, Cliff; Lewis-Roberts, Jones, Cobilas, Mills, Paterson, Lund, Seymour, M Easter.

Replacements: Ford for Cipriani (65), De Marchi for Lewis-Roberts (64), Mamukashvilli for Jones (64), Harrison for Cobilas (64), Ostrikov for Mills (54), Braid for Easter (54), Fowles (for Cliff 61), Forsyth for Tuitupou (72).

Att: 17,591

Ref: George Clancy (Ireland).