Saracens handed a painful lesson in Venter's absence

Clermont Auvergne 25 Saracens10

All the glories and goriness of French club rugby were laid before Saracens here on Saturday, and though the visitors came up short, the callow members of their squad will be better for the experience.

Yesterday's headline on the local newspaper La Montagne read 'Defence, defence, defence': a tribute to Clermont's work in stemming Saracens' persistent attacks in the widest of channels. It was a brave game plan prepared by the director of rugby, Brendan Venter, before he left for home in Cape Town last Wednesday to attend to a family bereavement. It stretched Clermont but it did not break them, and the Top 14 champions notched their 15th straight home win.

Saracens' Steve Borthwick and Schalk Brits were targeted and sometimes turned over by quality tackles – Clermont made 121 tackles to their opponents' 50 – and there was a handful of spiteful incidents which may yet be acted on by a citing officer. Sarries' Namibian flanker Jacques Burger needed eight stitches around his mouth after a stamp, though the video evidence identifying the culprit was said to be unclear. Jamie Cudmore, Clermont's Canada second-row who was sent off for fighting against Munster two seasons ago, punched Deon Carstens in the dust-up which followed the attack on Burger. The Clermont captain Aurélien Rougerie tripped Saracens' fly-half Derick Hougaard, who had a frustrating match of three missed goal-kicks out of five.

There were other costly near-misses: Alex Goode lost control on the point of finishing a beautiful break; David Strettle was unable to get away from Napolioni Nalaga when a try looked on. Borthwick, the Saracens captain with Ernst Joubert unusually confined to the bench, was asked whether the bolshy tactics would bolster his team for future battles, starting with Leinster at Wembley on Saturday.

"We weren't thinking past this game," Borthwick said. "You've got to give it a go when you've got great players in the backline like Brad Barritt, Strettle and Goode. Our guys will learn a lot."

How true. While Saracens' front row played through the 80 minutes, Clermont were able to bring on the gnarled Argentine front-rowers Mario Ledesma and Martin Scelzo. Their back-five back-up was former Scotland captain Jason White and Grand Slam winner Elvis Vermeulen. Maybe – as one player admitted – Saracens should have digested referee Peter Allan's unfamiliar handling of the breakdown, kicked the corners and chased penalties. Instead, after trailing 12-3 at half-time to tries by Cudmore and Julien Malzieu, they had Strettle's try after 43 minutes but that was as good as it got.

Scorers: Clermont-Auvergne: Tries Cudmore, Malzieu, Nalaga; Conversions Parra 2; Penalties Parra 2. Saracens: Try Strettle; Conversion Hougaard; Penalty Hougaard.

Clermont-Auvergne: A Floch; N Nalaga, A Rougerie (capt), M Joubert, J Malzieu; B James, M Parra; T Domingo, T Paulo, D Zirakashvili, J Cudmore, T Privat, J Bonnaire, A Lapandry, S Lauaki. Replacements: G Williams for M Joubert (66), M Ledesma for T Paulo (51), M Scelzo for D Zirakashvili (73), J White for T Privat (58), E Vermeulen for S Lauaki (63).

Saracens: A Goode; D Strettle, A Powell, B Barritt, C Wyles; D Hougaard, R Wigglesworth; D Carstens, S Brits, C Nieto, S Borthwick (capt), H Vyvyan, J Burger, A Saull, K Brown. Replacements: K Ratuvou for A Powell (61), N de Kock for R Wigglesworth (50), M Botha for H Vyvyan (51), E Joubert for A Saull (51).

Referee: P Allan (Scotland).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003