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Chouly double downs Munster

Munster's European Champions Cup destiny is slipping out of their hands after they were beaten 26-19 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 in going one-point clear at the top of a hugely competitive Pool 1 after collecting 14 points ahead of second-placed Saracens, with Munster now trailing on 10 points with the Irish team facing contests against Saracens and Sale Sharks to come next month.

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.

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 - Paul O'Connell always in the thick of things - but 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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