Mallinder shocked by Clermont loss
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder admitted the 37-5 Champions Cup defeat by Clermont was among the most distressing nights of his career.
The English champions, who sit 10 points clear at the summit of the Aviva Premiership, exited Europe at the quarter-final stage after being routed four tries to one at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.
The result had been decided by half-time as Clermont, employing a mixture of forward supremacy and three-quarter devilry, amassed an unassailable 27-0 lead.
"It's one of the worst defeats I've experienced. We've had a few shockers and that's definitely one of them," Mallinder said.
"We're disappointed because clearly we wanted to progress and have the chance of a home semi-final. We have to take this on the chin.
"We were well beaten. We came up against a very, very good side. Clermont played very well and we didn't. When you're losing 27-0 at half-time, that's basically game over.
"You come into these games knowing you have a chance, but that you'll have to play to your very best.
"We didn't do that and so were well beaten. Now our focus has to be on retaining the Premiership, it's as simple as that."
Wing Noa Nakaitaci claimed two tries and his France team-mate Wesley Fofana and former Bath full-back Nick Abendanon also crossed as England's strongest club was put to the sword.
It took until the 68th minute for Northampton to register their first and only points through a try by Alex Waller.
"We talked about needing to make a good start and shutting the crowd up, but completely the opposite happened," Mallinder said.
"Clermont made a cracking start, put us under pressure and we clearly didn't compete in the first half in any of the areas.
"The set piece didn't function. The physicality wasn't there. We couldn't keep hold of the ball, spilling it too often. Our kicking and kick chase were also poor."
Northampton's status as Premiership champions points to a gulf in class between the English and French leagues that Mallinder was in no hurry to deny.
"The top French teams are very, very good. And at times we are very good, but not in this match," Mallinder said.
"On this performance it would be hard to argue against it (there being a gulf in class), but we have competed against their top sides in the past."
Lock Courtney Lawes and prop Alex Corbisiero suffered respective shoulder and leg injuries, but Mallinder was unable to elaborate on the severity of their injuries.