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Rugby | Champions Cup

Scott Spedding © Gallo Images

Clermont grind past Saracens



Scott Spedding kicked a 78th minute penalty to hand Clermont a dramatic 24-21 victory over Saracens at Stade Marcel-Michelin on Sunday.

In a tightly contested affair, momentum between the two sides ebbed and flowed and although Saracens outscored their hosts by two tries to none, they conceded a plethora of penalties and when it was within goalkicking range Spedding and Morgan Parra punished the visitors, who have now lost seven successive matches in all competitions.

The result means Clermont are still sitting pretty at the top of pool four. They are unbeaten after four matches and have 18 points on the table while Saracens have dropped down to third place behind the Ospreys, who beat Northampton in the other pool four match on Sunday.

Saracens made a superb start and raced to a 6-0 lead by the seventh minute thanks to two well-taken penalties from Owen Farrell.

And in the 10th minute, Ben Spencer silenced the home crowd when he crossed for a superb opening try. This, when he glided through a gap after selling Etienne Falgoux an outrageous dummy just outside Clermont's 22. He still had work to do but did well to beat Spedding with a deft side-step before crashing over under the posts.

Farrell's conversion meant Sarries held a deserved 13-0 lead, but it wasn't long before Clermont narrowed the gap courtesy of a Parra penalty in the 18th minute.

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Clermont were gradually gaining the upper-hand and five minutes later, Parra succeeded with his second penalty after Saracens' forwards were blown up for an infringement at a maul.

The visitors were conceding several penalties and were dealt a blow in the 32nd minute when Will Skelton was sent to the sin bin for a cynical defensive foul deep inside Sarries' 22.

Parra converted the resulting penalty which meant the visitors' lead was reduced to four points and on the stroke of halftime Spedding landed another three-pointer off the kicking which meant Sarries held a slender 13-12 lead at the interval.

Shortly after the restart, Vincent Koch made a superb line break before offloading to Spencer just inside Clermont's 22. The scrum-half set off towards the try-line but was hauled in close to the whitewash by Peceli Yato.

In the 48th minute, Clermont took the lead for the first time when Parra added another penalty after Farrell strayed offside on defence. Shortly afterwards, Parra made it 18-13 to the hosts when he slotted his fifth penalty after Saracens' front row were blown up for illegal scrummaging.

Farrell narrowed the gap when he kicked his third penalty on the hour-mark and from the restart Clermont were reduced to 14 men when Nick Abendanon was yellow-carded for taking George Kruis out in the air.

With a one-man advantage, Sarries gave the ball more air and they were rewarded in the 63rd minute when Alex Lozowski crossed the whitewash from close quarters after the visitors took the ball through several phases in the build-up.

Three minutes later, momentum swung back in Clermont's favour when Juan Figallo was also sent to the sin bin after playing the ball illegally at a ruck close to his try-line.

The hosts continued to attack inside Sarries' 22 and in the 73rd minute, Parra drew his side level with another penalty after Alex Goode was blown up for a high tackle.

Clermont went in search of victory and two minutes before full-time, Richard Barrington was penalised just inside Saracens' half. The shot at goal was out of Parra's range but he handed the ball to Spedding, who showed his class as he succeeded with his monster kick.

SCORERS:

Clermont - Penalties: Parra 6, Spedding 2

Saracens - Tries: Spencer, Lozowski. Conversion: Farrell. Penaltiess: Farrell 3



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