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Clermont too strong for Sale

Sale slipped to their fifth straight defeat in Pool One of the European Champions Cup as Clermont boosted their hopes of winning the group.

The French team confirmed victory late on when number eight Fritz Lee burrowed over the line for a try which Camille Lopez converted, adding to his five earlier penalties.

Clermont host Saracens in their final pool match on Saturday in a winner-takes-all clash to decide who tops the group.

Danny Cipriani, seeking to impress England coach Stuart Lancaster for one last time before the RBS 6 Nations squad is announced on Wednesday, showed his defensive prowess in the eighth minute.

Lopez and Aurelien Rougerie combined to find Wesley Fofana unmarked in support on the left flank, but Cipriani denied him a try with a vital cover tackle.

Clermont led moments later when fly-half Lopez kicked a penalty, but the visitors were dealt a blow when Rougerie succumbed to an arm injury and was replaced by Jonathan Davies.

Sale soon responded with a routine penalty from Cipriani, but Clermont remained dangerous when on the attack.

In the 17th minute, it took a fine tackle to deny Nick Abendanon as the former Bath full-back threatened to burst clear inside Sale's 22-metre line.

Abendanon looked to support the visitors' attack at every opportunity, but Sale were solid in defence.

They lost former England winger Mark Cueto to injury in the 23rd minute and he was replaced by Tom Arscott.

Clermont continued to ask questions of the hosts, but they struggled to create genuine try-scoring opportunities.

Cipriani had a chance to put Sale ahead in the 28th minute but his long-range penalty, after Clermont were punished for putting hands in the ruck, sailed wide of the target.

Sale made another injury-enforced change six minutes before half-time when winger Will Addison was forced off and replaced by Nick MacLeod.

Shortly before the break, Lopez booted another well-placed penalty to put Clermont 6-3 up at the interval.

Sale began brightly after the restart and penned Clermont back inside their own half during the opening exchanges.

They scored the first try of the game in the 52nd minute when a rolling maul close to Clermont's line led to Sale being awarded a penalty try which Cipriani converted.

Clermont lost Fofana to the sin-bin shortly before the try and Jamie Cudmore followed in the aftermath of Sale's penalty try.

That put the visitors down to 13 men but another penalty from Lopez cut the hosts' lead to one point as the hour mark approached.

Lopez then booted another penalty to put Clermont 12-10 up before Cipriani restored Sale's lead with his third penalty in the 65th minute.

Lopez then kicked his fifth penalty before a late try from Lee sealed the win for Clermont when he powered over from close range and Lopez converted.

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