Sale showed tremendous resilience and twice led in a fierce second half but a late try by Fritz Lee, the Clermont No 8, settled this tense Champions Cup Pool One tussle.
Besides Lee’s strength, Clermont, who had two players sin-binned in the second half, relied on the goal-kicking of fly-half Camile Lopez, who kicked five penalty goals and converted the 77th-minute effort.
Sale, who have yet to win a match in Europe this season, gained a penalty try in a strong second-half effort which was converted by Danny Cipriani, who also landed two penalties.
Sale were almost at full strength despite having lost all four pool games and having nothing except pride to play for. But when your director of rugby is such a driven figure as Steve Diamond, that factor is a huge one.
Diamond reckons if Sale field their best team then they are a match for any team in Europe. That win last week over Northampton had proved his point.
However, for all the upbeat pre-match talk, the first half lacked the buzz of Sale’s excellent start last weekend. In fact, the first 40 minutes must have been a turn off for any occasional spectator who had braved the cold Salford weather.
Clermont enjoyed most of the pressure and turned round 6-3 ahead, Lopez slotting two penalties to one by Cipriani.
Cipriani, unlike last week’s dominant display, had little opportunity to excel and also missed a second attempt after he had levelled Lopez’s first kick in the ninth minute.
Clermont, who lost former France captain Aurelien Rougerie to a hand injury early on, finished on the attack and a second penalty came from Lopez came after Sale had been penalised for a front-row forward trying to help the ball out of a scrum illegally with his hand.
Sale also had injury problems and lost both wings Mark Cueto and Will Addison in the opening 30 minutes.
Sale started the second half in a more purposeful manner. They steadily built momentum and deservedly took the lead when referee Ian Davies awarded a penalty try in the 51st minute.
Clermont, who had seen centre Wesley Fofana binned for a dangerous tackle, were penalised for taking down the driving maul off a line-out. And to compound their problems, they were reduced to 13 men when lock Jamie Cudmore became a second visitor in the ‘cooler’.
Sale’s 10-6 lead did not last long as two penalties gave Lopez the opportunity to squeeze his team 12-10 ahead, only for Cipriani to put the home team back in front from a 65th-minute effort.
But Clermont were nothing but resilient. Lopez added a fifth penalty and converted Lee’s try.
Sale: M Haley; W Addison (N Macleod, 34), J Leota, S Tuitupou, M Cueto (T Arscott, 23); D Cipriani, C Cusiter (W Cliff, 65); R Harrison (E Lewis-Roberts 70), M Jones (T Taylor, 58), V Cobilas (C Parker, 77), J Mills (M Easter, 58), N Hines, D Braid (capt), D Seymour (M Lund, 65), J Beaumont.
Try: Penalty try
Pens: Cipriani 2
Clermont: N Abendanon; N Nakaitaci, A Rougerie (J Davies, 6), W Fofana, N Nalaga; C Lopez, M Parra; R Chaume (V Debaty, 62), B Kayser, D Zirakashvili, J Cudmore (L Jacquet, 62), S Vahaamahina, D Chouly (capt), J Bonnaire, F Lee.
Pens: Lopez 5
Referee: Ian Davies (Wal)Reuse content