Fightback comes up short in European opener

Fightback comes up short in European opener

Despite a second-half fightback - that saw Edinburgh score 13 unanswered points to make it 17-13 with 20 minutes remaining - a late flurry of tries from hosts Clermont saw the French Top 14 side run out deserved 31-18 winners at Stade Marcel-Michelin in the opening round of the EPCR Challenge Cup.

The capital side were 17-3 down at the break. Tim Swiel’s late penalty added the only points for the visitors who battled well in the opening 40, but failed to turn pressure or prime attacking opportunities into any scores.

Sean Everitt’s side returned to the field following the break with renewed vigour and when Javan Sebastian powered over with just 42 minutes on the clock – momentum had swung in Edinburgh’s favour.

A Cammy Scott penalty on 59 minutes made it just a four-point game (17-13) however that was as close as Edinburgh would get to Clermont, whose replacements added further firepower to close out the match with two well-taken scores.

Reacting to the defeat, Edinburgh Rugby Senior Coach, Sean Everitt, said: “I’m proud of the effort from the boys throughout the game. At half-time, we knew we had to stay in the fight.

“I think we did that and we responded well, but Clermont won some of the small moments in the game.

“They dominated us at scrum time. We gave away four or five scrum penalties. That’s too many.

“They won the battle in the air with the kicking. We’ve got to be better at that.

“Clermont emptied their bench in the second half and they made a good impact. They changed the game.

“We were getting on top at that stage, but then we conceded some penalties, missed a kick to touch and put ourselves under pressure.

He added: “It was good to play in front of a big crowd. We’ve got some good experience because we had some youngsters in the team.”

The first points of the evening didn’t arrive until the 24th minute as Sean Everitt’s side struggled to make their chances count while ASM Clermont Auvergne, by comparison, were clinical when the game shifted in their favour.

Australian full-back Alex Newsome was at the heart of the performance, scoring a crucial brace of tries as scores from centre George Moala and replacement Daniel Bibi Biziwu secured a bonus point win in Pool 3 for the hosts.

Moala got across for the first try of the game in the 24th minute, with fly-half Anthony Belleau kicking his first points to add the extras.

It was then full-back Newsome’s turn to get in on the action, the Australian finishing well to put the hosts 14-0 up.

A further Belleau penalty reinforced Clermont’s dominance, before full-back Swiel kicked the capital side’s first points of the game to send the sides in with the scoreline at 17-3.

Hope was renewed almost immediately after the break, prop Sebastian going over shortly after the resumption for a converted score.

In what was a hard fought second half, Edinburgh added three more points from the boot of fly-half Scott who kicked a long-range penalty to bring them even closer to their hosts.

But things soon turned again, this time against Edinburgh. In quick succession, Newsome crossed for his second and Bibi Biziwu went over too to add 14 points to ASM Clermont Auvergne’s score, and put them out of sight.

A consolation five points was scored from Wes Goosen, but Edinburgh ended their night wondering what might have been.

Edinburgh will now look to bounce back at home to Castres Olympique next Saturday (16 December) in an early 1pm kick-off against the French Top 14 club.

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