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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 April 2007, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
C Auvergne 46-29 Dragons
Aled Brew's two tries were not enough for the Dragons in France
Aled Brew's two tries were not enough for the Dragons in France
Clermont-Auvergne 46 (27)
Tries: Rougerie, Longo, Domingo, Marsh, Miguel, Mignoni.
Cons: James 5.
Pens: James 2.

Dragons 29 (12)
Tries: A Brew 2, Black, Gough, Dollman.
Cons: Sweeney 2.

Clermont Auvergne eased past Newport Gwent Dragons to book their place in the European Challenge Cup final.

The early first try of Aled Brew's brace for the Welsh briefly threatened to upset the strong favourites.

But after Clermont captain Aurelien Rougerie went over the French were rarely in danger of losing their lead.

Further tries from Gonzalo Longo, Thomas Domingo, Tony Marsh, Brice Miguel and Pierre Mignoni sealed a final against Bath.

Despite the defeat, the Dragons can be encouraged by scoring five tries in Clermont's backyard, with Adam Black, Ian Gough and Phil Dollman adding to Brew's scores.

Clermont dominated the early exchanges, despite making 10 changes from the side that lost last week's top of the French Championship clash to Toulouse.

The Dragons, missing the nous of injured flanker Colin Charvis, were forced to concede a string of penalties under pressure, fly-half Brock James kicking two for the French.

Our accuracy and set-piece was poor and we were punished

Dragons coach Paul Turner

But the Welsh hit back as the Clermont backs spilled the ball, Paul Emerick crashing through a hole and Gareth Cooper recycling the ball swiftly left.

Number eight Michael Owen produced a trademark off-load out of the tackle and Aled Brew cut a fine inside line off his wing to breach the line.

Ceri Sweeney missed the relatively straight-forward conversion but the Dragons at least had some encouragement.

The sun was beating down at the Parc des Sports Marcel-Michelin with a hard pitch demanding a running game.

Clermont needed scant encouragement and soon carved the Dragons apart to send captain Rougerie under the posts.

Vilimoni Delasau started the move with a clever chip and gather, before France wing Rougerie found a gap too easily between Owen and Rhys Thomas for a seven pointer.

When the Dragons tried fanning out to cut down Clermont's running options they left a huge hole behind the contact area that number eight Longo loped through to score, James again converting.

Referee David Pearson had already given the Dragons a stern warning about infringing, so it was little surprise that flanker Jamie Ringer was sent to the sin-bin for the next offence.

Clermont wasted no time targeting the under-strength Welsh pack and mauled their way to the line for prop Domingo to flop over.

James' third conversion made it 27-5 to the French with not quite half-an-hour played.

Dragons centre Nathan Brew suffered a worrying ankle injury
Dragons centre Nathan Brew suffered a worrying ankle injury

With the half coming to a close, and Ringer back on board, the Dragons assaulted the French line with a series of line-out drives.

Referee Pearson remained consistent, warning Clermont before yellow-carding open-side Emmanuel Etien for some less than saintly play.

The Dragons took immediate advantage with a penalty move straight off the training ground that sent Black under the posts - Sweeney converting - although the prop's celebratory swan-dive needs some work.

But Nathan Brew was injured in the move, suffering a badly twisted ankle, prompting a shuffled in midfield for the second half as the big centre was replaced by Dollman.

Dollman made an immediate impact, his kick-through outfoxing Alexandre Peclier to allow Aled Brew to race clear for his second try, Sweeney adding the extras.

Clermont, realising the Dragons had plenty of fire left, called for their first-team regulars off the bench, with Anthony Floch on at full-back and Argentina prop Martin Scelzo entering the fray.

It was not long before Delasau carved out another chance, drawing Gareth Wyatt off his wing to send Marsh over at the flag for an unconverted try.

Back came the Dragons once more, Ringer showing great quick hands to send lock Gough over in the left corner to lower the gap to 32-24 with 22 minutes left.

The terrific scoring ebb-and-flow continued as Clermont's pack battered into the Welsh and hooker Miguel went over from close range, James adding his sixth kick of the afternoon.

A sixth French try from the excellent Mignoni ended any lingering thoughts of a Welsh comeback, although Dollman - with another chip ahead - did grab a late consolation.

  • Dragons coach Paul Turner:
    "We knew it would be tough and we gave our all, but the first 20 minutes let us down.

    "With such a small squad it's hard for us and that was exposed at time out there against a strong French side.

    "Our accuracy and set-piece was poor and we were punished and the game went away from us because of that."

    Clermont Auvergne: Alexandre Peclier; Aurelien Rougerie (capt), Grant Esterhuizen, Tony Marsh, Vilimoni Delasau; Brock James, Pierre Mignoni; Thomas Domingo, Brice Miguel, Davit Zirakashvili, David Barrier, Thibaut Privat, Michel Dieude, Emmanuel Etien, Gonzalo Longo.
    Replacements: Anthony Floch for Peclier (40), Martin Scelzo for Domingo (44), Jamie Cudmore for Barrier (48), Elvis Vermeulen for Dieude (51), Raphael Chanal for Marsh (55), Aunaud Pic for Mignoni (73).

    Dragons: Kevin Morgan (capt); Gareth Wyatt, Paul Emerick, Nathan Brew, Aled Brew; Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Cooper; Adam Black, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Ian Gough, Luke Charteris, Joe Bearman, Jamie Ringer, Michael Owen.
    Replacements: Phil Dollman for N Brew (37), Ben Daly for S Jones (56), Andrew Hall for Gough (63), Nic Fitisemanu for Bearman (68), Alex Walker for Cooper (71), Aled Thomas for Sweeney (71), Jamie Corsi for R Thomas (75).

    Referee: David Pearson (England).

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