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Munster crash to first back to back defeats

Clermont 26 - Munster19

By Mark Bryans

Munster's European Champions Cup destiny is slipping out of their hands after they were beaten by star-studded Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel-Michelin.

Munster had never lost the back to back contests of rounds three and four but Clermont became the first to do that double over the former champions following their historic 16-9 win at Thomond Park a week earlier.

It means Clermont are firm automatic quarter-final qualifiers after they moved four-points clear at the top of a hugely competitive Pool 1.

Clermont now have 17 points, ahead of Saracens, with Munster, who face Saracens and Sale Sharks next month, third on 10 points.

The match was a fast and furious contest but - while Munster gave it their all - it was Clermont who had the class where it mattered most in the backs.

Munster started strongly and went six points clear with two Ian Keatley penalties - and his injury-time effort earned them a losing bonus point - but Clermont produced some glorious flowing rugby to conjure up a couple of memorable tries.

Wesley Fofana was one of those weaving his magic and Munster simply ran out of defenders for skipper Damien Chouly to finish off a magnificent team try, one of the best of the season.

Then, just before the break, a scintillating solo effort from wing Noa Nakaitaci produced another contender for try of the tournament and Camille Lopez's conversion made it 15-6 at the break.

Munster had contested every scrap of possession with great intensity, with Paul O'Connell always in the thick of things, however a yellow card for full back Felix Jones, for a trip on outside half Lopez, who ended up with 11 points from the boot, left them a man short and facing an even higher mountain to climb.

Clermont had the upper hand in the scrums while Munster had their best moments at the breakdown but, when it came to posing threats with the ball in hand, Lopez sending a pinpoint cross kick for Chouly to collect unopposed and cross for his second and Clermont's third.

Hooker Duncan Casey finally found the way to the Clermont line late on and Keatley converted, but Clermont had already done the damage.

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