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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Clermont Auv'gne 24-19 Newcastle
Clermont Auvergne full-back Anthony Floch
Floch scored Clermont's second try

Clemont: (15) 24
Tries: Malzieu, Floch
Pens: James 4
Con: James

Newcastle: (6) 19
Try: Noon
Pens: Wilkinson 4
Con: Wilkinson

Newcastle's hopes of qualifying for next season's Heineken Cup ended with a European Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat to Clermont Auvergne in France.

Wing Julien Malzieu and full-back Anthony Floch both scored tries to give the hosts a 15-6 half-time lead, Jonny Wilkinson landing two penalties.

But Jamie Noon's converted try brought the Falcons to within two points.

Two penalties from fly-half Brock James inched the hosts further ahead and a late Wilkinson penalty was not enough.

Clermont threatened to run away with it in the first half but Newcastle responded well from 15-3 down to push their hosts, second in the French league, right to the wire.

The home side were quickly into their stride at a balmy Stade Marcel Michelin and a superb backline move saw Floch put left wing Malzieu over in the corner in the seventh minute, James converting.

Wilkinson did get the Falcons on the board with a penalty and Floch missed with a long-range attempt before the video referee ruled out an Aurelien Rougerie try in the right corrner.

But James added a penalty of his own before Floch crossed for Clermont's second try, Falcons prop Joe McDonnell's missed tackle allowing the full-back to cruise over.

We had try-scoring opportunities that we didn't put away

Newcastle boss John Fletcher
At 15-3 down it looked ominous for Newcastle but they started to find their feet in attack, and created two try-scoring opportunities.

Mathew Tait showed his pace with a chip-and-chase before Matt Burke was forced into touch a metre out, and then Wilkinson's superb off-load was wasted as Noon's pass eluded McDonnell.

But Wilkinson's second penalty kept the Falcons in it at the break, the visitors doing well to resist Clermont's rolling maul as the half came to an end.

James and Wilkinson traded further penalties on the resumption to make it 18-9 before Newcastle put themselves right back in it with a try in the 53rd minute.

Quick ball from the pack saw Burke come into the line again and his off-load and Wilkinson's pass put Noon over in the left corner, Wilkinson adding the extras.

The Falcons lost Toby Flood to a knee injury before James landed two penalties in the third quarter to give Clermont some breathing space.

Wilkinson's fourth penalty with eight minutes left brought the Falcons to within five points and despite a breathless late flurry, the French side held on.

They will now enjoy home advantage again in the semi-finals in three weeks against the winners of Saturday's quarter-final between Newport Gwent Dragons and Brive.

Newcastle director of rugby John Fletcher:
"The guys felt before the game that it was winnable and they're absolutely devastated. At the same time, I'm pleased with the strides this team has made forward.

"Over the last four or five weeks, we've played very well against some very strong teams. Tonight, we could and should have won.

"I thought there were a couple of poor penalty decisions against us, but that's something we have to look at and discuss with the referee.

"We had opportunities to hurt Clermont. We had try-scoring opportunities that we didn't put away and we knew that we couldn't afford to do that."

Clermont Auvergne: Floch, Rougerie, Chanal, Marsh, Malzieu, James, Troncon; Emmanuelli, Miguel, Scelzo, Cudmore, Privat, Dieude, Etien, Longo-Elia.
Replacements: Ledesma, Domingo, Jacquet, Broomhall, Pic, Peclier, Combezou.

Newcastle: Burke, Rudd, Tait, Noon, Flood, Wilkinson, Grindal; McDonnell, Thompson, Ward, Sorenson, Oakes, Buist, Woods, Wilson.
Replacements: Golding, Long, Perry, Parling, May, Dickson, Crichton.

Referee: Malcolm Changleng (Scotland)

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