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ASM Clermont Auvergne (10) 20 - 13 (10) Leinster Rugby,
Stade Marcel-Michelin, Montferrand,
Sunday, 12th December 2010, 16:00 (15:00 Irish Time)

Rarely have injuries come in such bunches and at such inopportune moments, but it seems that Leinster are always left without a full strength squad following the Autumn Internationals. Blame could, and probably should, be pointed at Declan Kidney, who insisted on risking both D'Arcy and O'Driscoll after both Kearney and Fitzgerald were ruled out indefinitely. Only the former survived the battle fit, and O'Driscoll was limited to sideline influence in France at the weekend.

The task seemed huge, the French champions on their home soil are close to unbeatable and have a bench that would make you wince, never mind the first team which would probably walk into any International side, no man left out. It was a day for Leinster's youngsters though, particularly Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden who played, arguably, their biggest games to date.

An early try from Horgan certainly set Leinster off on the right foot and laid down a serious statement of intent from the men in blue, despite a shaky start from Jonathon Sexton who kicked out on the full, thankfully that glitch would soon be corrected by the Leinster and Ireland 10.

It took only three minutes though for the home side to even the playing field, a flat pass from Rougerie to Malzieu saw the massive French man trundle over the line easily, the huge winger was barely bothered by the Leinster defensive line.

What then seemed like could be a punishing 70 or so minutes from Clermont was actually quite the opposite, Sexton was commanding from his boot and put the visitors ahead once more from a penalty. Not long after the Leinster youth showed a flash of brilliance as O'Malley passed to McFadden who's almost unreal pace saw him burn down the line, he then passed back inside to Sexton who tried a sneaky behind-the-back offload to Nacewa, but the ball just went a little too high for the full back, had he caught the pass it was surely a try. Moment's later Morgan Parra, who's place kicking was sublime, put the home side level.

It was after the break though that Clermont settled things in their favour, a step outside Gordon D'Arcy from Floch saw 5 points added and Parra made it 7. Perhaps not entirely deserved by the French but still the brute force and physicality of the encounter meant gaps were going to show, on either side.

Sexton reduced the gap a few minutes later with a penalty but Parra pushed the margin back to seven points as substitute Cian Healy came off his feet at the ruck. It must be said that his recent penchant for coughing up penalties at inopportune moments is becoming a little too familiar.

Parra had the chance to deny Leinster a losing bonus point in the final minutes, but surprisingly pushed the kick wide, allowing Leinster to run down the clock and for Eoin Reddan to kick ball to touch, securing Leinster that all important point to a drone of French fans booing, why is uncertain.

Leinster should surely be confident now for next week's fixture in the Aviva, especially now that O'Malley, McFadden and Heaslip's replacement Dominic Ryan have all proved they can shine on the big stage. Worry still grows though in the injury list, with O'Brien and Heaslip both adding to the list of doubtful players next week. Let's just hope that both can recover and that O'Driscoll is declared fit, however it would seem unfair for O'Malley or McFadden to lose their place after both played so well.

Match Statistics

ASM Clermont Auvergne
vs
Leinster Rugby
Teams Anthony Floch
15 Isa Nacewa
Napolioni Nalaga
14 Shane Horgan
Aurelien Rougerie
13 Eoin O'Malley
Gavin Williams/Gonzalo Canale 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Julien Malzieu 11 Fergus McFadden
Brock James 10 Jonathan Sexton
Morgan Parra
9 Isaac Boss

Thomas Domingo
1 Heinke van der Merwe
Ti'i Paolo
2 Richardt Strauss
Martin Scelzo
3 Mike Ross
Loic Jacquet
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Thibaut Privat
5 Nathan Hines
Julien Bonnaire
6 Sean O'Brien
Alexandre Lapandry
7 Shane Jennings
Sione Lauaki
8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Mario Ledesma
16 Jason Harris-Wright
Lionel Faure
17 Cian Healy
Davit Zirakashvili

18 Clint Newland
Julien Pierre
19 Devin Toner
Elvis Vermeulen
20 Dominic Ryan
Kevin Senio
21 Eoin Reddan
Taseva Lavea
22 Sean Berne
Benoit Baby
23 Dave Kearney
Not Considered
due to Injury


Stan Wright,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Rob Kearney,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Andrew Conway,
Paul Ryan

Officials Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU),
Assistant Referees: Sean Davey, Colin Goodliffe (both RFU),
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

by Patrick Fennelly, © 2010-12-13

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