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Report: Bristol Bears 38-51 ASM Clermont Auvergne

Bristol Bears battled back to claim a consolation bonus-point in a 12-try Heineken Champions Cup thriller at Ashton Gate on Saturday.

Pat Lam’s men were outscored by seven tries to five in an action-packed, free-flowing encounter, as a hat trick from Kotaro Matsushima and a double from Damian Penaud led the French Top 14 side to a bonus-point victory.

Clermont stormed into a 21-0 lead inside the opening quarter, as Matsushima, Penaud and an interception from Apisai Naqalevu put the visitors in the driving seat early on.

The Bears hit back through Malins, before Matsushima’s second sealed the four-try bonus-point for Clermont.

Bryan Byrne’s try four minutes before time clawed the Bears back into it, but a Camille Lopez penalty restored Clermont’s 15-point lead at the interval.

Callum Sheedy and Lopez traded penalties early in the second half, before Harry Randall gave the hosts some hope with his side’s third try.

But a quick-fire Clermont treble put the game out of the Bears’ reach, as Penaud, Fritz Lee and Matsushima’s third took them through the 50-point barrier.

Lam’s side hit back with late tries from Ioan Lloyd and Siale Piutau to seal the bonus-point, leaving the Bears to rue a slow start in the winter sunshine.


What happened?

Clermont took firm charge of the opening exchanges and went ahead on five minutes when Matsushima coasted over after Penaud’s initial break from a neat inside pass.

It got worse for the Bears minutes later when Naqalevu picked off Sheedy’s pass in midfield to coast in under the posts.

Penaud had influenced much of the first quarter and got his reward from a beautifully crafted Clermont strike move – Raka joining the line from his wing to make the extra man and locating the French international in the corner.

With the game seemingly drifting away from them, the Bears hit back through Malins, racing on to Sheedy’s pass to claw the home side back into the contest.

Matsushima bagged his second and Clermont’s fourth, before a resurgent Bears struck again courtesy of a clinical lineout drive – Byrne the scorer.

Randall touches down midway through second half (JMPUK)

Lopez’s penalty was quickly cancelled out by Sheedy early in the second half, and shortly after, the Bears dragged themselves back into contention. Leiua and Malins combined to create space in the wide channels, and a powerful surge from Purdy, the wing’s inside offload was scooped up expertly by Randall, who dived over to make it an eight-point game.

After a spell on the back foot, Clermont quickly re-established their dominance with three tries in 15 minutes to all but seal a commanding win on the road. First, Parra’s looping pass picked out Penaud for his second, then Lee stormed on to the scrum half’s flat pass after Raka’s initial charge. Matsushima sealed an impressive hat-trick to take Clermont past 50 points, but the scoring wasn’t finished there.

Malins caught the visitors’ defence napping, dummying the kick for touch in favour a quick-tap, and offloading to replacement Lloyd for the bonus-point try in the corner.

The Bears signed off on a positive note with a fifth try two minutes from time, as Malins hacked through and Piutau gathered, but Clermont weren’t to be denied in an 89-point thriller.

Bristol Bears: Malins; Leiua (Naulago 58), O’Conor, S Piutau (c), Purdy; Sheedy (Lloyd 65), Randall (Uren 65); Woolmore (Y Thomas 49), Byrne (Capon 59), Afoa (Sinckler 49), Holmes, Joyce (Attwood 65), Earl, D Thomas, Hughes.

System players: Capon, Thomas, Sinckler, Attwood, Heenan, Uren, Lloyd, Naulago.

ASM Clermont Auvergne: Matsushima, Penaud, Naqalevu, Moala, Raka, Lopez (c), Parra; Falgoux, Pélissié, Slimani, Timani, Jedrasiak, Cancoriet, Vahaamahina, Lee.

Replacements: Fourcade, Ravai, Falatea, Lanen, Veredamu, Bézy, Tiberghien, Vili.

Bristol Bears: Tries: Malins 21, Byrne 36, Randall 49, Lloyd 74, Piutau 78. Cons: Sheedy 21, 26, 49, Malins 74, 78. Pens: Sheedy 42

Clermont Auvergne: Tries: Matsushima 5, 27, 69, Naqalevu 8, Penaud 15, 54, Lee 65. Cons: Lopez 5, 8, 15, 54, 69. Pens: Lopez 38, 44. Yellow: Bézy 74


Key moment

After Harry Randall's sensational score had closed the gap to eight points, Damian Penaud collected Morgan Parra's floated pass to score his second for Clermont, who would go on to score twice more in a commanding 15-minute period.

Clinical.


Pat Lam reaction


Man of the match: Max Malins

A try and two assists for the majestic Max Malins, who returned from international duty in sensational style.

The full back picked a sharp line to score the Bears' opener, before his quickly-taken penalty sent Ioan Lloyd over in the corner. Malins moved the fly half for the final quarter and his kick through led to Siale Piutau's score two minutes from time.


Social media reaction


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