Llanelli Scarlets 13 Clermont Auvergne 31 match report: Lightning strike as Nalaga storms Scarlets’ citadel

Clermont remain on course for a home quarter-final with another two tries from Nalaga leading the way

Parc y Scarlets

Scarlets were over-powered on the pitch yesterday in much the same way as Welsh regions are dominated by French clubs in the transfer market.

Clermont-Auvergne, last season’s finalists, scored the fastest try in Heineken Cup history on their way to a bonus-point win. Many of the crowd at Parc Y Scarlets had barely taken their seats when Napolioni Nalaga pounced after 17 seconds.

Yet full credit to Scarlets, under-manned and under-funded in comparison to the giants from the Massif Central, they recovered from that early blow to take a 13-10 lead by half-time after Gareth Maule finished a scintillating 70-metre attack to score the try of the game. 

The recovery was spirited but ultimately fell short as Simon Easterby’s side were simply swept aside by the French juggernaut, leading the Top 14, with 21 unanswered points in the second half. Indeed Clermont showed their title credentials by flexing their muscles after the break, not least in their scrum that claimed a penalty try before Fritz Lee and Nalaga completed the comeback.

Scarlets have now won only one of their last 10 Heineken Cup ties and all the promise of their winning start this season at Harlequins has faded. “We put ourselves under pressure by giving away too many points that Clermont did not have to work hard for,” said Easterby.

“You can’t cater for tries that early but the boys showed character to recover from it and push one of the best teams in Europe.The penalty try was dubious. Once the referee has given that number of penalties then he has to give a penalty try but we thought Samson Lee did a good job on Thomas Domingo who popped up a few times.

“That combined with our inaccuracy at times made it very difficult for us to get anything from this game. The type of game we had to play to beat Clermont was impossible in these conditions.”

They could not have made a worse start when Josh Turnbull coughed up possession from the kick-off. Thierry Lacrampe kicked ahead and Nalaga beat Nic Reynolds for the touchdown. By a quirk of fate, it was 11 years ago to the day that Daryl Gibson had scored the previous quickest Heineken Cup try in 26 seconds, for Bristol, against Scarlets’ historic rivals Swansea.

But Scarlets recovered and it was not until late in the game that the expected flood of points materialised. Instead they regained composure while French frustration spilled over. Clermont lost their talismanic captain, Aurelien Rougerie, to the sin bin following a punch-up in midfield involving Scot Williams. The yellow card allowed Rhys Priestland to kick Scarlets opening points before his quick thinking ensured they gained even more from the 10-minute spell. The Wales fly-half seized the chance with a quickly-taken penalty on his own 22-metre line. Williams provided the thrust though it needed Liam Williams to scoop possession off the deck for Priestland to release Maule. Priestland converted and added a second penalty before Delany halved their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Scarlets fans briefly allowed themselves to imagine another famous win when Brock James missed two penalties from in front of the posts.

But the front row was increasingly fighting a losing battle in the scrums and, after four successive penalties, Wayne Barnes, the referee, awarded the penalty try. It was the blow that finally broke Welsh resistance and Clermont went for the jugular as Lee and then Nalaga both went over from close range.

“That penalty try was the turning point. It unblocked the score and psychologically hurt them,” said Vern Cotter, the Clermont head coach.

Line-ups:

Scarlets: L Williams; N Reynolds, G Maule, S Williams, J Williams; R Priestland, G Davies (R Williams, 68); P John (capt, R Evans, 61), K Owens (E Phillips, 68), S Lee (R Jones, 68), J Ball (R Kelly, 61), G Earle, J Turnbull (J Snyman, 72), J Barclay, R McCusker.

Clermont Auvergne: J-M Buttin; S Sivivatu, A Rougerie (capt), R King, N Nalaga; M Delany (B James, 48), T Lacrampe (L Radosavljevic, 23); T Domingo (R Chaume, 69), B Kayser (T Paulo, 65), C Ric (V Debaty, 65), J Cudmore (N Hines, 61), J Pierre, J Bonnaire, J Bardy (F Lee, 51),  D Chouly.

Referee: W Barnes (England).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before