European Champions Cup: Munster 9-16 Clermont Auvergne
|Munster (6) 9|
|Pens: Keatley 3|
|Clermont Auvergne (16) 16|
|Tries: Lee, FofanaPens: Lopez Drop-goal: Lopez|
Munster's hopes of progressing to the European Champions Cup quarter-finals were dealt a blow as they were beaten by Clermont Auvergne in Pool One.
Tries by Fritz Lee and Wesley Fofana helped Clermont become the first French club to win a European game at Thomond Park.
Lee notched a first-minute try and Fofana added another as Clermont took a deserved 16-6 half-time lead.
Ian Keatley's third penalty cut the lead but Clermont held on to win.
Munster produced intense late pressure as they chased the converted try which would have earned them a fortunate draw, but a lost line-out in injury-time near Clermont's line ended their hopes.
It was only the Irish province's third defeat in 53 European games on their home ground and they had to be content with a losing bonus-point ahead of next weekend's return in France.
Keatley kicked all Munster's points but was dominated in open play by his opposite number Camille Lopez, who pulled the strings despite struggling with his goal-kicking.
Clermont's forwards had the edge on Munster's pack for the majority of a ferocious contest and Lions scrum-half Conor Murray was unable to steer his team around with his customary astute box-kicking.
Try-scorer Lee produced a man-of-the-match display while other Clermont forwards Jamie Cudmore, Damien Chouly and Julien Bonnaire also starred as Munster's pack was outgunned around the fringes.
The last European meeting between the sides had seen Clermont earn a 16-10 win in the 2012/13 Heineken Cup semi-final.
Munster are now level on points with Saracens, with Clermont one clear at the top of one of the Champions Cup's most competitive pools.
They will almost certainly have to win next week's return game to keep alive their hopes of making the European knockout stages for the 16th time in 17 seasons.
Samoan Lee barged his way over for his first-minute try after scrum-half Ludovic Radosavljevic's clever kick-off had forced Munster full-back Felix Jones to concede an immediate line-out.
Clermont should have scored a second try when Bonnaire kicked ahead rather than find Fijian flyer Napolioni Nalaga before Keatley opened Munster's account.
However, Aurelien Rougerie's run then set up Fofana's 20th-minute try, with the superb Lee again involved in the move.
While Lopez did miss two first-half conversions and a penalty, his classy 34th-minute drop-goal extended the lead to 16-6, which was to prove enough despite Munster's late pressure.
The home side turned down three straightforward penalty chances in favour of kicking for the corner and on each occasion, the bold decision failed to bear fruit.
Munster: Felix Jones; Gerhard van den Heever, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha; Dave Foley, Paul O'Connell; Peter O'Mahony (capt), Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Johne Murphy for van den Heever 59 mins, James Cronin for Kilcoyne 13
Not used: Kevin O'Byrne, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Sean Dougall, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan
Clermont: Nick Abendanon; Noa Nakaitaci, Aurélien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Napolioni Nalaga; Camille Lopez, Ludovic Radosavljevic; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Clément Ric; Jamie Cudmore, Sebastien Vahaamahina; Damien Chouly (capt), Julien Bonnaire, Fritz Lee.
Replacements: Jonathan Davies for Abendanon 62, Vincent Debaty for Domingo 67, Davit Zirakashvili for Ric 72, Alexandre Lapandry for Bonnaire 62.
Not Used: John Ulugia, Julien Pierre, Thierry Lacrampe, Brock James
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)