Today marks the start of our Matches of the Season feature, looking back at some of the outstanding matches in last season’s Heineken Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup.
First up, we look back at the battle between 2020 and 2019 Challenge Cup winners as Bristol Bears hosted ASM Clermont Auvergne at Ashton Gate.
Bristol Bears 38 ASM Clermont Auvergne 51
ASM Clermont Auvergne scored seven tries as they proved too strong for Challenge Cup holders Bristol Bears in a 51-38 win on the road.
A hat-trick from Kotaro Matsushima helped the French side on their way to a pivotal European away success, with a total of 12 tries scored in a thrilling clash in the West Country.
Clermont raced into a commanding lead, with a try from Matsushima, an intercept score from Apisai Naqalevu who sprinted clear from inside his own half, and a third from Damian Penaud who cut inside and scored near the posts.
All three tries were converted by Camille Lopez, but it was Bristol who would eventually get onto the scoresheet through Max Malins who found the perfect line and darted between two Clermont defenders to score at the sticks.
The French side soon brought up the try bonus point as they worked another overlap with relative ease before finding Matsushima who had enough pace to burn the final Bristol defender and stay in touch before diving over the whitewash.
Bryan Byrne was the next to go over from the back of a powerful driving maul, with Callum Sheedy converting to cut the gap to 12 points.
The sides then traded penalties either side of the break before Bristol narrowed the Clermont lead to eight points, with Henry Purdy having no problem barging past several French defenders before rolling back to Harry Randall who was able to work past the final man and score in the corner.
But Clermont soon took over again, with Penaud again crossing before Fritz Lee bulldozed his way over the try line after Bristol’s defence and Matsushima got his third of the afternoon.
Ioan Lloyd and Siale Piutau would add consolation tries, helping the hosts earn a try bonus point but it wasn’t enough to trouble Clermont who would leave Ashton Gate with all five points.